Coach says Copley boys tennis team ‘starting to gel’
COPLEY — Copley boys tennis head coach Mark Ullman said his team is “playing a little sharper and starting to gel a bit.”
“I think there has been definite improvement, and I think there will be more as we go along,” he said.
The team was out to a 6-2 overall start this season — including a 3-1 mark in Suburban League play — which Ullman called “pretty good overall.”
“We’ve played some strong teams. I think we’re in pretty good shape, and we’ll be trying to improve as we go through this season,” he said. “I just want to see us continue to improve. We want to make sure we are using the right tactics at the right time, increasing our options to deal with different styles of play. And we need to work on our mental game. Out of that, you learn what you need to do to reach a higher level of play later in the season against the really top players.”
The team’s record last year was 14-3 overall and 7-0 in the Suburban League.
“The team also finished first at the league tournament, securing the league title,” Ullman said. “They also won the Medina Doubles Tournament and reached the semifinals of the Northeast Ohio section of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Team Tournament.”
Two seniors graduated from last year’s team, but Ullman said experience is a strength for this year’s squad.
“I think our strength is our depth, and we’re pretty experienced now,” he said. “This year, we have players with another year of experience under their belts, including players who are versatile enough to play singles or doubles. The team has seasoned players, with two seniors, three juniors and one sophomore.”
The seniors on this year’s team are co-captains Michael Ellison and Max Pristic.
Ellison, who is playing first doubles this year, was a second doubles league champion last year.
“Michael has been a varsity player all four years, and he has really come along and improved his game,” Ullman said. “He has worked hard physically this past year, so he is moving better than ever. He’s stronger and, of course, he’s pretty experienced.”
Pristic is playing second doubles.
“Max is in his first year on varsity and he’s come along, too,” Ullman said. “He’s improved his game in the past year.”
Joining Pristic at second doubles is Keval Yerigeri.
“He is a junior in terms of years, but he is graduating [this year] due to his academic excellence,” the coach said. “I consider him a senior because he’s not going to be here next year, but in terms of years he’s a junior. It’s his first year on varsity, but he’s a talented player and he has a nice game. He’s really coming along, and we’d love to have him next year, but he excels so much academically that he’ll be moving on.”
Two other key players on the team this season, Ullman said, are sophomore Andrew Ong and junior Jarad Pennington.
“Andrew did a super job last year. He won a lot of close matches. He won all of his three-set matches, and he showed a lot of maturity as a freshman. He’s a very hard worker and very fleet of foot. I think he enjoys tennis and will continue to improve as he goes along,” the coach said. “And Jarad has had a growth spurt. He’s starting to be a very big guy, and he also is very talented and works hard at his game. He’s trying to achieve as much as he can.”
According to Ullman, Ong and Pennington have been battling back and forth for the first and second singles positions.
“They’ve been somewhat alternating positions, but one of them will move ahead, and we’re still kind of determining that,” he stated. “We have a lot of good competition within the team.”
Other top team members include juniors Alan Du, who is at third singles, and Austin Aten, who plays first doubles.
“Alan is undefeated so far. He excels both athletically and academically. He also plays on the soccer team; he just finished fifth in the state in the chess tournament; and he also plays in piano competitions,” Ullman said. “And Austin is a very versatile player. He can play singles or doubles, and he’s technically sound. He’s also experiencing a growth spurt. He’s really coming along, and he’s really developing his serve.”
Ullman has been the varsity coach for five seasons.
“Our fine junior varsity coach is Sam Schriever,” he said. “We also have a top volunteer coach in Greg Aten.”
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