With three years of varsity experience missing from the lineup in the form of James Denny, the Jim Thorpe boys' tennis team fell last week to Tamaqua.
The Olympians welcomed Denny back into the lineup earlier this week against Pottsville and saw the effects of the senior's experience work wonders.
He was also the solution head coach Norb Lienhard was looking for on Wednesday in a rematch with Tamaqua.
With Denny in the lineup, Jim Thorpe reversed a 5-0 loss and defeated the Blue Raiders, 3-2.
"Having James Denny back really helps this team because it bumps everyone down and makes our doubles stronger and just makes our whole team a different team," said Lienhard of Denny, who played two years of doubles before playing No. 3 singles last year. "I'm happy to have him back.
"He proved to be the difference today. He lost the first set and then won the next two to help us get that extra point and then Corey (Ligenza) finished it off with his match. All of my guys are playing different spots this year. It's all new to them."
The match started off on the same path as the Blue Raiders' Gonzolo Hernandez-Cascante got the best of the Olympians' Mitch Franko once again. Hernandez-Cascante remained unbeaten at 5-0 on the season with a 6-1, 6-3 win.
With Denny back in his lineup, Lienhard was able to pair up senior Tom Smyth and sophomore Kyle Lawrence and had them play the Blue Raiders' No. 1 doubles tandem of Jerome Betz and Joe Binder. Last week, Betz and Binder got the best of Lawrence and Sean Parrish, 6-1, 6-1. However, the move worked out for the better this time as Smyth and Lawrence scored a 6-4, 6-3 win.
Denny and Ligenza then finished up their singles victories to secure the Olympians' victory.
After falling 6-2 to Matt Hadesty in the opening set, Denny did what he had to do to keep his team within reach of the victory. Denny stepped up his game and rebounded to win the next set easily at 6-0. He was in control in the deciding set before the match was retired after Hadesty sustained an ankle injury. That gave Denny a 2-6, 6-0, 5-1 victory.
"I am a senior this year and I know I have to step up to help my team out," Denny said. "There's no room for messing up and playing like a fool out there. So, I regained my focus and said to myself, 'I have to do this. I'm experienced. I have a great coach. I have great teammates. I have to get this one.'
"So, I focused on my all-around play. I brought out my best game against my opponent."
After losing to the Blue Raiders' Evan Stoll in three sets last week, Ligenza turned things around. The Olympian sophomore scored a hard-fought 7-6 (10-8 tiebreak), 7-5 win over the Blue Raiders' senior and sealed the Olympians' first win of the season.
"I just played his game," said Ligenza, who's playing in his first year of singles' play. "I played the ball back to him. I played some volleys because I kept netting them the first match. I just had to change it up a bit."
"I was nervous as it was a tough match, but I was glad I won because I helped the team get our first win."
The Blue Raiders' Colin Johnson and Eric Fiorilla ended the match by scoring a 6-3, 6-1 win over the Olympians' Shane Bleicher Ott and Zack Nace respectively.
"I think Jim Thorpe definitely played a better game today," Tamaqua coach Jennel Yelito said. "They came in wanting to win. I think my boys played a little complacent and now they see that they have to pick it up.
"Now, they have to understand that every point matters. They can't think ahead too much and just play point by point."
Jim Thorpe moves to 1-3 on the season, while Tamaqua slips to 1-4.
Jim Thorpe 3, Tamaqua 2
Gonzolo Hernandez-Cascante (T) def. Mitch Franko 6-1, 6-1; Corey Ligenza (JT) def. Evan Stoll 7-6, 7-5; James Denny (JT) def. Matt Hadesty 2-6, 6-0, 5-1 (retire)
Kyle Lawrence/Tom Smyth (JT) def. Jerome Betz/Joe Binder 6-4, 6-3; Colin Johnson/Eric Fiorilla (T) def. Shane Bleicher Otto/Zach Nace 6-3, 6-1