Loss of No. 1 player cause for adaptation
Three of The TIMES NEWS Area tennis teams need to alter and adapt lineups this coming season, as their former number one singles players are gone from their respective rosters.
Pleasant Valley's Kevin Peer, Jim Thorpe's Sam Lux and Tamaqua's Kyle Oliver are all gone for their own reasons, whether it is graduation or transferring schools, and their remaining teams and coaches are left with some questions unanswered.
Despite the losses that the teams face in the early going, there are both negatives and positives that the coaches are witnessing so far.
Even though the remaining players are called upon to take over that leadership role, and have to step up their own games to handle the switch in ability, the work ethic increases, as those same players are vying for that top spot.
Also, there could always be some surprises, as players that coaches wouldn't think to step up, actually do emerge to the forefront and lead their squads.
For Pleasant Valley's Mark Allison, Kevin Peer informed him a little after the conclusion of last season that he would be moving with his family to Florida. With that migration, Allison was immediately faced with the reality of losing his number one player.
"Kevin was number one for two years, both as a sophomore and a junior," Allison mentioned. "This was going to be his senior year as number one and his third year in that position. But the kids are taking this opportunity as a challenge and I'm pretty happy with their response so far."
As for negative effects, Allison sees, "it weakens the lineup because everyone has to be bumped up one spot in the rotation."
"Losing a good player like Kevin does weaken our team, but our work ethic has picked up and has actually created a lot of depth for our roster. I think we're going to be a better team in the long run because of it."
Tamaqua is in a little different of a position than the other two teams losing their number one player.
Gone, due to graduation from last season, is Kyle Oliver. Tamaqua head coach Jennel Yelito moves into her second season and has the luxury of a more-than-capable replacement.
"With Kyle graduating, it definitely makes the other kids want to be more competitive because they are battling for that number one spot," Yelito stated. "You lose a good leader and the thermometer for the team, who you depended on to guide the other players. However, we have an exchange student that is coming into the program for the season that is very talented and will more than likely occupy that number one position."
Moving on to the third and final program that is facing adversity due to the loss of its top player is a squad that has probably the biggest void to fill in 2010 TIMES NEWS Player of the Year, Sam Lux. Lux not only led the Olympians by example, but also brought the expectation of winning to the other athletes and the program.
Head coach Norb Lienhard faces the challenge of searching for someone to step into those gigantic shoes.
"The kids that are left really don't understand what it takes to be number one and it will be a lot of hard work for them," he admits. "Losing our number two player in Zach Ligenza adds to the loss and that has affected a lot of the players throughout the lineup. They have a little experience in singles and the varsity time, but to take over the spots vacated is going to be difficult."
Lienhard was quick to admit that although the task remains daunting, it is not impossible.
"It's going to force the younger kids to play and down the road, they will have gotten more experience in those positions more quickly," Lienhard said. "Having someone like Sam in the past, the other kids on the team knew what it was like to win, so this is pushing those other to step up and play harder, in order to keep that winning continuing."
Let's face it, those number one players that are gone due to graduation and the like, were at one time or another, these unknown players. The cycle repeats itself on squads everywhere.