Tougher road for Sweet Home tennis
The Sweet Home tennis team is coming off a successful 2011 season that saw them go 9-3 in ECIC II, 15-6 overall, and capture the Silver Bracket Team Championship.
But this season will be a tougher row-to-hoe as the Panthers have been bumped up to ECIC I where they will face the like of Williamsville North, Clarence and Orchard Park.
"The competition will be more difficult, especially in the singles area where most of the players who went to states representing Section VI came ECIC I," said coach Brian Koziol, who is in his ninth season with the Panthers.
"Our league goal is to finish above the .500 mark in ECIC I league play; as we will face really good opponents in Orchard Park, Clarence and Will-North along the way. We lost three starters to graduation, Andy Salvato who was first singles, Joey Rigler who was second singles and Andrew Miles from our first doubles team. Losing Andy will be a tough loss, as he won more singles matches for our school than anyone else during the last decade."
The onus of handling first singles will now rest on the shoulders of junior Adam Moran. Koziol feels Moran is a solid, consistent player who is cool under pressure. Moran, who is making the jump from second doubles, won the team's 2011 Todd Miller Scholarship Award and plays in the off season at the Miller Tennis Center.
Having that pure tennis player at the most competitive spot in the line up will be huge for the Panthers.
While Moran will set an important tone on the court, senior Mark Mackowski is the acknowledged leader of the team.
Playing second singles, Mackowski was voted captain three years in a row and has far and away the most powerful ground stroke on the team.
Senior Brian Rosiek will returns at third singles where he went 15-6 last year.
"His ground strokes and serves are much improved from a year ago," Koziol said."He should be a key part of our teams success this year."
Seniors Zach Kinnaird and Nick Sciandra will lead the way in doubles play. Kinnaird is a newcomer while Sciandra is in his fourth year of varsity.
Juniors Kyle Merrifield, Chaman Sharma, Connor Miller and Andrew Ciminelli should also factor prominently during the course of the season and will likely be groomed to be next years team leaders.
Koziol also feels extremely fortunate to have solid, character guys as his senior leaders.
"I'm really excited for our senior class. They are a great group of student-athletes. Mackowski, Rosiek and Sciandra have all been with me for four years and all have been strong representatives of what I want my team to play, look and act like," Koziol said."Zach Kinnaird joins us for his senior season and already has been a great contributor to our team on and off the court. Steve Weinheimer is the fifth senior and a first year player who already has improved greatly during his first weeks of play."
Koziol is also happy to have three recent graduates-CJ Schummer ('10), Eric Daigler ('09) and Joey Rigler (11) as his staff of volunteer assistants. Having three kids come back to help is a byproduct of positive, hard working mind set and family atmosphere Koziol has established.
"I feel extremely fortunate to have them help our team succeed this season," he said.
Moran, Jacob Stanley and the Sharma/Merrifield team scored wins in a 3-2 victory over Starpoint to open the season.
Though Sweet Home dropped its first two league matches to Clarence and Lancaster, both by 3-2 finals, but the combos of Kinnaird/Stanley (first) and Sciandra/Merrifield (second) scored wins at doubles in both matches.