Alpena boys tennis team plans to make opponents work

News Photo by James Andersen The 2018 Alpena High boys tennis team pictured from left to right is: front: Ashwin Chhaoamohan, Nehemiah Rao, Josh Hart and Dean Kowalewsky; back: Kevin Cook, Harrison Butch, Brett Bonifas and Josh Pokorzynski. Not pictured are Dan Cox and Aaron West.

Time will tell how many matches the Alpena High boys tennis team wins this season.

One thing is for sure though. Win or lose, the Wildcats are going to make their opponents earn it.

With seven returning players on their varsity roster, the Wildcats have plenty of experience and are hoping to take a step forward in 2018.

“We’ve got a good group of kids. I’ve got a good, solid group of juniors and they played most of the summer, so there games have come along quite a bit,” Alpena coach Charlie Giordano said. “There’s three or four kids that have played for me for four years and their starting to take the game a little more seriously; playing in the offseason, working on skills, going to camps, so every year they come back, they’ve got a little more skill.”

Having more skill means making opponents work harder. Alpena lost its season opener against Bay City Western last month, but several of the matches were lost on tiebreakers, which means the Wildcats were pushing out matches longer and forcing opponents to beat them with good shots.

In the singles flights, junior Nehemiah Rao will move up to one singles and junior Ashwin Chhapamohan moves from playing doubles to two singles.

At one doubles, Alpena returns senior Josh Hart and junior Kevin Cook. Giordano said both players are talented enough to play in singles flights, but together they give Alpena an anchor in the doubles flights.

“They’re all in the mindset of (doing) whatever’s best for the team,” Giordano said.

Versatility is a hallmark of this year’s roster as Giordano looks for the best way to fill out his lineup with just 10 players on the roster.

Senior Brett Bonifas and junior Dean Kowalewsky will play at two doubles and sophomore Harrison Butch and freshman Dan Cox likely in the mix at three doubles. Juniors Josh Pokorzynski and Aaron West round out the roster.

Against an always challenging slate of Big North Conference opponents, Giordano is counting on the versatility of his roster to push opponents no matter what flight they are playing in.

“I think if you play a little bit of both, it makes you stronger. Doubles, you have to be good at the net and control the pace of the ball. Singles, you have to be cardio-fit and you have to be mentally tough,” Giordano said. “The difference is from four to one (doubles or singles), the game is a lot faster the higher you. There’s a lot fewer mistakes and there’s more power. When you go from four singles to one singles, your game has to improve.”