Tennis team’s goal for 2000 season: One more win than last time around

ALLENTOWN — Allentown High School boys tennis coach Robert Chianese said his squad’s goal prior to the start of the 2000 season was to try and notch five wins, which would top the 4-12 record the Redbirds finished with in 1999.

"We are hoping we can win one more match than last year," Chianese said Tuesday, indicating that he has only one retuning singles player from 1999 (senior Norm Castro). "We find that the kids who come out and play tennis for us basically just started learning the game within the past few years.

"Individually, I look at the kids’ growth. I’m hoping to get them to improve their skills and be more competitive" as the season progresses, he said.

Now in his 11th year as head coach at Allentown, Chianese said he has enjoyed working with the athletes over the years in teaching them the game and watching them improve throughout the season. As for 2000, it’s no different.

"This year’s team consists of a great group of kids who are eager to learn a lot about the game," the coach said of his 10-man roster. "Unfor-tunately that doesn’t always translate into more wins, but they have good spirits and a very positive attitude and they all work very hard."

Leading the way for the Redbirds at first singles is Castro, who Chianese said was playing well in 1999 until a knee injury halfway through the year shut him down for the remainder of the campaign.

"Norm has worked on his game and has improved his speed and I would definitely say he’s a little better than last year. He gets around the court real well."

As for the next two singles slots, Chianese said three students are competing for those two positions: senior Ryan Mich, junior Erik Hierhager and sophomore Jordan Engelhardt.

"Erik shows a lot of promise," Chianese said of his junior. "With more motivation and desire, he should be No. 2. As for Jordan, we call him ‘The Backboard’ because he always gets the ball back even if he doesn’t have the greatest form. He has great desire and refuses to lose. He causes a lot of players to miss points."

Whichever one of the three players mentioned above doesn’t play singles will play doubles and will be paired with either senior Seth Gartland, juniors Jim Farrell or Cory Mintz or sophomore Robert Mirabella as one of the two doubles teams. Any combination of Gartland, Farrell, Mintz and Mirabella will make up the other doubles team, the coach said.

"Right now we are mixing and matching to find the right combination of who plays best with each other," Chianese said of his rotation.

Chianese said seniors Jason Schad-wald and sophomore Brian Mc-Gaheran will also contribute to the team this year.

Allentown opened the season on Monday against Monsignor Donovan in Toms River and was shut out, 5-0. Chianese went with the following rotation in the Redbirds’ opening match against the Griffins: Castro, first singles; Mich, second singles; Engelhardt, third singles; Hierhager and Farrell, doubles; Gartland and Mintz, doubles. Gartland and Mintz had the most competitive match, losing 7-5, 7-6 (15-13 in the tiebreaker).

"It was pretty fun to watch," Chianese said of Gartland’s and Mintz’s match. "They staved off seven match points to stay alive."

Allentown will play its home matches at the Miry Run Country Club in nearby Robbinsville. The Redbirds are scheduled to host Hamilton West on Friday.

— Dan Miller