St. Ed’s varsity boys and girls tennis teams have two regular-season matches this week and two more next week before the district playoffs commence on April 4.
The boys team was 3-2 after dropping a 6-1 match to Holy Trinity Episcopal in Melbourne last week. The girls raised their record to 5-2 with a 4-3 win over the Tigers on the same court. It should be noted that the boys team was deprived of two probable match wins when Master’s Academy was unable to field a team.
Second-year head coach Francisco “Paco” Munoz is understandably pleased with the season thus far, and he is optimistic about the opportunity his Pirates have going into the postseason. However, he and his players are also realistic because Benjamin looms as the clear-cut favorite in District 12-1A.
“I’m happy with the way the girls are developing,” Munoz said. “They are competitive and doing very well. We have a nice combination on the team and they are having a nice season.
“We have two girls from last year who are doing their best. Jasmine Jaffe is a very good player. She is a junior now and she was the No. 1 player last year. Caitlin Carrick is a senior and she is our No. 3 singles player, as she was last year.
“The rest of the team is basically brand new. This year we have Oilvia Lazorik as our No. 1 in singles. She’s just a freshman but she’s a very good player, and that’s why she is No. 1. She was pushed hard, competed for the position and earned it.”
The four and five singles slots are generally held down by eighth-grader Emma Turner and freshman Zion Atwater. The girls roster is loaded with a group of underclassmen that will not see action in matches this year, but will benefit from internal competition by training with the regulars during practice sessions.
“With all of the youngsters we have on the girls team, we had to do some mixing and training with the more experienced players,” Munoz said. “It’s a learning process and they all have a lot of work to do.”
“On the boys side I also have a No. 1 player that I didn’t have last year. Jeffrey Bi is a very nice tennis player because he has a complete game. He has the serve, forehand, backhand and he is very competitive in every match.
“I’m also happy with Shay Shaikh and Jonathan Temple (two and three, respectively, in singles). I had both of them last year. Ryan Niederpruem is a freshman and this is his first year on the team. He is our No. 4 and is improving every day. Junior Alex Harper is No. 5 and sophomore Will Johnson fills in when needed in singles and more often in doubles.”
The top three boys in the singles lineup are seniors and Munoz believes this may be their time to strike in the postseason. He likes the chances of Bi and Temple as individuals as well as both of his doubles teams. He also knows the girls are strong at the top and some possibilities exist there, but overall their best opportunities may be just ahead in a year or two.
“We have four more matches left starting this week, and then it’s on to districts,” Munoz said. “It’s a very good challenge and I like it. I think they are all having fun and learning a lot.”
Lazorik earned the No. 1 spot on the girls team as a freshman. She is a veteran of USTA tournament play and trained locally over the past three years with Alain Mignolet at Twin Oaks and Christophe Delavaut at the Boulevard.
“They taught me well,” Lazorik wanted it to be known. “Serving is my strongest point along with my forehand groundstrokes. In the district tournament we are going to see some teams that we’ve already played, so there will definitely be some losses there. But there are also some other teams that we should beat.
“For my freshman year I’m pleased with the record we have. It’s really fun and exciting to be on this team.”
Munoz could not be more pleased with where he is at almost two years after a devastating traffic accident almost took his life.
He said, “I’m blessed because I’ve been busy on the job and helping a lot of people. As for my own tennis game, I took two steps backwards but now I’m one step forward. I’ll get there soon and I’m enjoying it tremendously.”