Young talent scores for men’s tennis

Will Soffel, Contributing Writer

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The men’s tennis team lost three starting seniors at the end of the 2015 spring season. This season, a new class of five freshmen have had to step up and fill in their shoes.

Zach Anderson, ’19, plays sixth singles and second doubles, and Colton JohnsonTaylor, ’19, plays fifth singles for the Gators. JohnsonTaylor and Anderson are the only consistent freshmen starters and they both aspired to play at the collegiate level in high school.

“I won an individual state championship for doubles and three state sectional titles in high school, so coming from that experience I definitely wanted to continue playing in college,” Anderson said. “I am loving that I can continue to play the sport I like and also be a part of a great university. It’s been fun.”

Before becoming a member of the men’s tennis team at Allegheny, JohnsonTaylor played on his high school tennis team.

“I was the only one in my high school senior class that went on to play tennis in college, but I expected to move on and play somewhere in college,” JohnsonTaylor said.

Head Coach Jared Luteran is pleased with the effort that the young players have put in so far this season.

“I had high expectations for all of the freshmen because I believe in them and what they are capable of, so I am not shocked about how well they have been doing,” Luteran said. “They got thrown into the toughest schedule we have ever had, so they are getting good experience against really good teams.”

JohnsonTaylor thinks that the team’s playing schedule has helped improve his personal skill level this season.

“I really like it. We have had a tough schedule this year, but we have been getting a lot better from playing against good teams,” JohnsonTaylor said. “In the fall I wasn’t sure if I would be in the lineup, but I moved up in the spring and I have played in every match.”

For a first-year college athlete there can be a lot of pressure, especially when you are expected to start every match and pressure has not been an issue for Anderson and JohnsonTaylor.

“They both work really hard and are putting in the time outside of practice for sure. They both want to get better and they want to win,” Luteran said. “Zach’s been great playing with Tyler who is a senior, and he has handled the pressure really well.”

Anderson said that he played in a lot of big pressure moments in high school and that has helped him with his confidence as a starter this season for the Gators.

Anderson and Tyler Triolo, ’16, have won five straight matches, which gives them an overall record of 5-1 this spring.

“Tyler has been a lot of fun to play with and he has helped me out a lot with my game,” Anderson said. “It’s awesome being a freshman and contributing to wins right off the bat.”

In addition to practices and matches, academics are the team’s main priority as student athletes.

“I meet with the freshmen every month with their syllabus, but once they get over a 3.0 I stop doing that,” Luteran said. “Zach and Colton both did very well last semester, so they haven’t had much trouble balancing their studies with tennis.”

Hard work outside of practice and in the classroom has been key for JohnsonTaylor and Anderson’s success. Both freshmen put in the time outside of practice to improve.

“I try to hit with both of our coaches at least once a week outside of practice,” JohnsonTaylor said. “Putting in the extra time definitely helps you get better.”

Anderson said that he also finds the time outside of practices to hit with the coaches or to play practice matches with teammates.

Moving forward the Gators have seven matches ahead of them before the conference tournament.

“We have doubleheaders every weekend for the rest of the season, but we are ready to go out there and compete and do our best,” Anderson said.

The Gators are scheduled to play their next match against Kenyon College on Sunday, April 10 at 2 p.m. in Meadville.

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