The Pittston Area boys tennis team was a work in progress last season. Nearly all of the Patriot players were newcomers to the varsity tennis scene in the Wyoming Valley Conference.
Inexperience led to a 1-10 season in 2015. This year, however, the Patriots return nearly half of its starting lineup, including three singles players looking to make a mark in the league.
“We had a brand new team last year,” Pittston Area coach Amanda Carmody said. “We have experienced players coming back that have seen some varsity time. Hopefully those players will get us some major points.”
Pittston Area’s Jason Homschek and Johnathon Durling will battle throughout the season for the team’s top two singles spots. Durling and Homschek were consistent starters for the Patriots for the last several years. Carmody said Durling’s length and athleticism could lead him to success on the court this season.
Durling, a senior, was able to learn the game more last season and this offseason, Carmody said.
“With his speed, he’s an athlete and he can run down the ball,” she said. “He gets the game better now and he really picked up on that last season. He’s been able to move his opponent around and he’ll bring that to the table. He’ll be someone to look out for.”
Carmody compares Durling and Homschek as two players with similar abilities. When the two play against each other, the matches are usually tight. As far as Homschek is concerned, Carmody said he has a lot of experience and he knows the game very well.
Homschek, a junior, started his career as a doubles player and stepped into that singles role last season. He won a District 2 match last season over Matt Finnegan of Wyoming Valley West.
“He hits hard and has some drop hits and slices,” Carmody said. “He understands the game. (Durling and Homschek) are similar and they always battle back and forth on the court.”
In the third singles spot, Carmody said she could rely on Nick Alfano. Alfano spent last year playing on the Patriots’ top doubles team. The coach said she hopes to see improvement moving from doubles to singles.
At doubles, Carmody and the Patriots will see some new faces step into the starting role, including James Galonis who won a District 2 match with Durling last season. She said doubles are extremely important and can make or break a match.
At last year’s district championships, Homschek and now-graduated player Christian Charney lost a match in the first round.
The Patriots lost a handful of matches last season by just one. Many of those matches went 3-2 and Carmody thinks that experience they have coming back could lead to more wins.
“I want to flip that,” she said. “They did an awesome job last year for a new team. We need a little more experience down the stretch and we’ll get a couple more wins.”
Pittston Area opens its tennis season on Monday, March 21, hosting Tunkhannock. The Patriots will then be back in action on Tuesday, March 29 at Berwick.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick