Eight letter winners will anchor the Elk County Catholic Crusaders tennis team as they open the 2011 boys' tennis season this afternoon when they host the Johnsonburg Area Rams at Benzinger and Memorial parks.
Three-year senior letter winner Jarid DeCarli will be leading the Crusaders this season as Kyler Breakey and Kevin Detsch, two-year senior letter winners, along with one-year senior letter winner Nate Dattoli and newcomers Darren Simons and Tyler Herzing, will be counted on by Coach Nick Caggiano to provide the senior leadership.
Three juniors, Jon Leuschel, Shane Mancuso and Ben Wortman, all two-year letter winners, while sophomore Scott Reichard is the other returning letter winners for the Crusaders.
The remainder of the squad consists of juniors Shaun Chiesa, Scott Krellner, Brian Nguyen and Brent Polaski, along with sophomore Peter Pontzer.
"We have quite a few guys coming back from last year with a lot of singles and doubles experience, having a good amount of positive results," said Coach Caggiano. "They know what it's like to go through tough matches as well as the straightforward ones, all different situations. They also have a lot of court familiarity, which will definitely work for them.
"One significant positive we have going for the team this year (much like last year) is that the camaraderie coming from the team is excellent. There is such a good feeling of solidarity, from the upperclassmen down to the youngest on the team, which can bode well for success on any team. You know you have a good combination when every player can joke around with each other and likes playing together, no matter the age or grade level."
"Consistency will be the key for us this season. One factor that will be intriguing to see is how well we step up, and translate our practice play into match play. So far they've been hitting well, been very impressive. However it's quite another story when you play in an actual match," Caggiano continued. "Another capacity where they will have to step up is taking over the spots vacated by the seniors who have graduated last year, not just playing positions, but in leadership roles as well. Dave Kopp, Robby Wortman and Kyle Detsch were great role models for the team last year and we'll miss having them around. You can already see the older members starting to take on leadership roles of their own and guiding the rest of the team. We have some great guys for that."
Caggiano's squad has set a goal of making the finals of at least two of the three district competitions - singles, doubles and team.
"We want to win at least half of our matches and most importantly, to continue to have fun while we play," added Caggiano. "You can't take things too seriously out there to the point that you're not enjoying the game or yourself."
The ECCHS coach noted that the squad will focus equally on each team they play, not overestimating or underestimating any team or individual by any means.
"We're all very excited for this season, and looking forward to having much success, both as a team as well as individually, and also learning from the experiences tennis can teach," said Caggiano. "We are going to try and make the most of every opportunity that presents itself to us."