Weekly Feature



2017-04-19 / Sports

Sweet Home has potential for strong season

Panthers return ECIC finalist
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter


Sweet Home junior Jonah Murphy goes to his backhand on a ball in the corner during a scrimmage at Williamsville North April 3. Murphy is a five-year varsity player and the Panthers’ returning first singles player. Murphy’s only loss in ECIC last year was in the finals of the ECIC Tournament. 
Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Sweet Home junior Jonah Murphy goes to his backhand on a ball in the corner during a scrimmage at Williamsville North April 3. Murphy is a five-year varsity player and the Panthers’ returning first singles player. Murphy’s only loss in ECIC last year was in the finals of the ECIC Tournament. Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Sweet Home’s boys tennis team had a good season last year, finishing 8-2 in ECIC Division II and 9-6 overall.

But with five new starters in the lineup, Panthers coach Brian Koziol thinks this year’s team, with more experience, has the potential to be good or better than last year’s group.

“Many are not as experienced in their tennis game yet as to where we were last May,” Koziol said. “I just think at this moment, we have to gain match experience and work on cleaning up some parts of our game. I think if we finish with a similar record, I would call it a successful season from the team’s standpoint.”

Sweet Home’s top player is returning junior Jonah Murphy, a five-year varsity player, who returns at first singles after going undefeated in the regular season.

Murphy’s lone loss in ECIC play came in the ECIC finals against East Aurora’s Jack McClaren, who went on to win sectionals and advance to the state meet.

Murphy lost in the sectional quarterfinals. Koziol said Murphy’s goal is to advance to the state meet.

Koziol said Murphy’s raised his game to another level in the offseason.

“His maturity as a player is improving, which I hope will help when he faces tougher competition,” Koziol said.

The starters at second and third singles, and first doubles, are still up in the air. Sophomore Andrew Thiele, juniors Alex Farkas and Jordan Chatelle, and senior Mack Bluman are in the mix.

“This group is all extremely close in abilities,” Koziol said. “Each has something a little different that I would say is their strength. I hope to have a stable lineup at some point soon, but a rotation is also something that wouldn’t surprise me given their closeness in abilities and playing experience.”

Thiele won the Todd Miller Scholarship over the summer and has improved tremendously, especially with his serve, Koziol said.

“Andrew is a great young man who represents how I want our student-athletes to carry themselves on and off the court,” he said.

Koziol said Chatelle’s biggest strength is his consistency on the court.

“He’s really coachable and a smart player,” Koziol said. “Jordan is a gamer. He finds ways to win points and win matches.”

Bluman started at first and second doubles last year and has the most starting experience of anyone on the team beyond Murphy.

Koziol called Bluman a very athletic player and a great leader on the team who plays with emotion.

“His forehand is very strong and his serve is improving,” Koziol said.

Koziol said Farkas has a very strong backhand and he is really working hard with Farkas to make him a complete player.

“Alex’s ability to play high-quality tennis is definitely there,” Koziol said. “We are working on finding the right time for certain shots and making the right decisions within matches.”

Seniors Michael Goodman and Nate Stawasz are starting at second doubles.

New players who could also break into the lineup are freshmen Connor Merrifield and Cole Feldmann, and sophomore Sunwoo Kook, who Koziol said have been impressive so far in the preseason and showing outstanding improvement.

Koziol said he is hoping that the team depth will make them competitive at first singles and at doubles.

“I think since we have good depth that we should be able to be competitive at both first and second doubles and hopefully win matches from there,” Koziol said.

Sweet Home traveled to Clarence Tuesday, but information about the match was unavailable before press time. The Panthers also host Williamsville EastWednesday and travel to Hamburg Friday.

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