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Jim Thorpe tennis enjoying successful season

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    Jim Thorpe tennis coach Norb Lienhard talks to his players during a recent match. The Olympians are enjoying a successful season this fall. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published September 12. 2018 03:01PM

It’s been a season like no other in Jim Thorpe girls tennis history — and veteran coach Norb Lienhard is enjoying every minute of it.

In his 23 previous years as coach, Lienhard has had only four teams finish with winning records.

His last District 11 playoff qualifier was in 2013, a team that finished with a record of 7-9.

But this year, the wins have been piling up, while the losses ... well, there haven’t been any losses yet.

The Olympians will be carrying a perfect 8-0 record with them into a showdown match against perennial power Blue Mountain on Thursday. The Eagles are also undefeated this season.

“I’m trying to control myself,” said Lienhard. “I’m an emotional guy. Talking about my team makes me tear up. We’re making history.”

This is Jim Thorpe’s all- time best start, and the team is well on its way to setting a new school record for match wins in a season.

“This season we’ve beaten teams we lost to last year,” Lienhard said. “I could feel the improvement coming. A year ago, even though our match record wasn’t great, we won more games than we have in quite a while.”

Lienhard attributes much of his team’s resounding success to winter and summer workout dedication from his players.

“In previous years, we might get no more than six kids for winter training. But we had 20 girls this past year who came two days a week.”

He is reaping the fruits of his labor as he has been preparing this year’s team for the past five years.

“The kids are putting in the work to achieve their success,” Lienhard said.

“Our doubles teams are stronger than before. Our No. 1 team of Evelyn Flores and Angelica Vzas have been terrific” he said, “ Chloe Getz and Trista Gehris have been solid, too.”

The Thorpe singles lineup of Leanne Van Essendelst, Christy McLain, and Kaitlyn O’Neill has been strong as well.

“Leanne is super competitive. She hates to lose even a point,” Lienhard said about the player at the top of his lineup.

Five regular season matches remain on the Thorpe schedule, including William Allen and Pocono Mountain West, two teams that will be a test, according to Lienhard. JT plays as an independent and is not affiliated with any league. One quirk in their schedule is playing Pottsville four times just to get enough games (minimum of 11) in to meet District 11 qualification rules.

Right now, Lienhard’s starting lineup — comprised of two seniors, three juniors, and two sophomores — is focused on Blue Mountain.

“They’re always strong. Many of their players take private lessons and have personal coaches, but I think we’ll be ready,” said Lienhard about the Eagles. “Our kids are very coachable and we’ll come ready to compete, that’s for sure.”

Lienhard said the team is ready, and he is as well.

“I’m hoping my players throw the bucket of water on me after the match ... and you know why,” Lienhard said with a laugh referring to the traditional victory celebration.

That would be a symbolic gesture for a team and their coach who already have made a big splash in their school tennis history.


CLOSE CALLS ... The Marian Catholic golf team is off to a strong start in Division 2. As of Monday, the Colts have proved to be clutch in close matches, winning two of its six league matches by five strokes or less.


FOOTBALL N FUTBOL ... Jim Thorpe’s Chris Condly kicked six extra points on Friday night during a win over Panther Valley. The very next morning, he tallied a hat trick for the Olympians’ soccer team against Schuylkill Haven.


HOLDING IT DOWN ... As of Monday, Tamaqua goalie Baylee Reinhardt has the highest save percentage of anyone in the Schuylkill League with at least 10 saves.


RYDER CUP ... Jim Thorpe’s Ryder Wallace (two goals, three assists) is tied for sixth among the Schuylkill League with seven points to help lead the boy’s soccer team (as of Monday). Chris Condly (three goals) is right behind him.


ROLLING ... The Pleasant Valley girls soccer team has opened the season on a tear, roaring to a 4-0 start. The Bears have outscored their first four opponents 20-0. Brianna Clark scored four goals with one assist as Pleasant Valley opened the season with 7-0 wins over Pocono Mountain West and Bangor.

The Northwestern girls have been just as impressive en route to a 5-0 start. The Tigers have outscored their foes 28-6, including a 7-0 win over Wilson and a 9-2 triumph over West York area.

The Pleasant Valley boys soccer team has also enjoyed a strong start to the season, going 3-0 and outscoring opponents 11-1.

Northwestern’s boys team has continued its run of success, opening the year 4-1, with its only blemish a 4-0 setback against Pennridge (District 1) in the second game of the season.


FAUX PAS I ... In a recent preview of the Weatherly girls’ cross country team it was stated that Emily Zoscin was a potential standout for her team. However, in the interview process she was being referenced about her track ability and not cross country. And, yes, she is indeed being recruited as a sprinter by Colgate. Emily is a three-sport athlete at Weatherly where she plays volleyball in the fall, basketball in the winter and is a sprinter in the spring.


FAUX PAS II ... In Saturday’s edition it was incorrectly stated that John Patton was lauded along with Robert Saunder for their line play for the Colts in their 35-0 loss to North Schuylkill. The mix-up came when looking at the defensive stats (and uniform numbers) were actually those of the Spartans player. Patton missed last week’s game with an injury, but is expected to return shortly. Saunder was injured in the second quarter. Coach Pat Morgans was extremely high on the play of his two standout interior linemen Adam Gilbert and Jared Spalti.


GOING THE DISTANCE ... The Northwestern girls took first place in the Class 2A race at the Lion Invitational earlier this season, while Northern Lehigh’s Reagan Pender was first in the girls Class 1A race. Tamaqua’s Sarah Maue and Palmerton’s Jake Martinez both posted first-place finishes at the Northampton Invitational. Maue crossed the finish line in a time of 20:08.35 to win the girls’ A/AA race. Martinez posted an A/AA boys’ best with a time of 16:59.93. As a team, the Tamaqua girls won the A/AA girls’ race.

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