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Bears’ Schaffner makes a huge jump

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Published June 19. 2018 11:37AM

Josh Schaffner didn’t get what he wanted.

So he got better.

Schaffner fell short of his goal to play No. 1 singles for Pleasant Valley during his freshman tennis season.

But he used that disappointment as motivation.

Fast forward one year.

Schaffner entered his sophomore season with the same goal — playing No. 1 singles for the Bears.

But it wouldn’t be easy. Pleasant Valley was returning its top two singles players from the previous season — Jake Ammermann and Najja Francis. Schaffner was confident he was ready to handle the No. 1 position, but he still had to prove it on the court.

“I really worked hard to improve my game in the offseason,” Schaffner said. “I went to the court several days a week with my dad and did drills to improve my strokes, I started playing in USTA (United States Tennis Association) Tournaments on the weekend for the first time ever; I was determined to do anything I could to become a better player.”

The hard work paid off.

Not only did Schaffner earn the No. 1 singles spot on his team, he posted an impressive 10-7 record against a challenging Eastern Pennsylvania Conference schedule.

He also made a strong showing at the District 11 Class 3A singles tournament, rolling to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Nazareth’s Nick Mitchell in the first round. He then severely tested No. 6 seed David Lynn of Liberty in the second round, before eventually falling in three sets.

Schaffner’s successful campaign earned him the 2018 Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Boys Tennis Player of the Year award.

“I was happy with my season,” Schaffner said. “I played some tough competition in our league. A lot of the kids playing No. 1 in the EPC have been playing tennis for a long time.”

Schaffner gives a lot of the credit for his success to his father and his family.

“My dad (Daniel) dedicated a lot of his time to helping me improve my game the last couple years,” said Schaffner. “We would go to the court and he would feed me ball-after-ball. We also worked on a lot of drills.

“He’s been a huge reason why my game has improved as much as it has.”

While most of the opponents he sees in the EPC have a great deal of tennis experience, that isn’t the case for Schaffner.

“The first competitive match I ever played was my opening match for Pleasant Valley my freshman year,” Schaffner said. “So I feel like my game still has a lot of room to grow and improve.”

To help take his game to the next level, Schaffner will be getting some personal instruction and coaching this summer.

“I’ve only had one private lesson ever,” Schaffner said. “Before joining the USTA last year, almost all the tennis I played and all the work I did on the court was with my dad, my mom (Cathy), and my brother (Lucas).

“But I played a recent tournament in Kutztown, and one of the guys who saw me play offered to work with me and give me some lessons. So I’ll be doing that this summer.”

Pleasant Valley tennis coach Mark Allison is excited to see how far Schaffner can take his game.

“I know he’ll keep working hard at it. He loves tennis, and I know he’ll get better and better,” Allison said. “He’s definitely going to make his mark on District 11 tennis in the next few years, there’s no doubt about it. He already has made his mark. He got a lot of notice from the coaches at the district tournament.”

Schaffner is excited about it too.

“I have a bunch of goals for next year,” he said. “I know I’m going to have a lot of competition from Jake (Ammermann) and some other guys we have returning for the No. 1 singles spot, so I want to work hard to get that spot. In addition, I want to improve my singles record, and make a deeper run in the District 11 tournament.

“I also have some goals as far as the strengths and weaknesses in my game are concerned. I have some things I definitely want to work on this summer.”

Obviously, Schaffner isn’t backing down from challenging himself.

During his first two years in the Bears’ tennis program, he has shown the confidence to set his goals high.

Just as importantly, he has displayed the determination to achieve them — no matter how long it takes.

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