8/4/2016 – West Side Leader
By Sean Patrick
WEST AKRON — Head coach Walt Jacoby said he believes this year’s tennis team at Our Lady of the Elms High School has the ability to be “one of the better teams in the area.”
“I expect this to be the best team across the board that I have ever had,” said Jacoby, who is in his 16th season as the team’s coach. “My whole team has varsity experience and our top players are strong. We have seven lettermen in our seven positions and I think that has made them work even harder. They know they have to come out and bring it all every time, because somebody else wants their spot. We have great depth and our [junior varsity] team is very, very strong.”
According to the coach, last year’s team got off to a very strong start before being derailed by a key injury.
“We started out 7-1, and then we had a bad injury to our top player [Emily Axtell] and ended up being 9-11,” he said. “Natalie Kirk and Stefanie Wyszkowski ended up making it to the third round of sectionals in singles.”
Wyszkowski, of Wadsworth, is a junior who will play No. 1 singles this season, Jacoby said.
“Stefanie is an experienced USTA [United States Tennis Association] player and she’s ranked in Northeast Ohio. [On July 29], she won the Towpath Singles Compass Tournament,” the coach said. “We are expecting big things from her. She’s a tough competitor who loves to hit the ball hard. She’s a great worker. She works on her game all the time.”
Playing No. 2 singles will be Kirk, of Cuyahoga Falls, whom Jacoby called a “heavy hitter.”
“Natalie is a serve and forehand kind of kid who likes to overpower her opponents,” he said. “She is a very skilled player who has played competitively for many, many years and she made great strides last year when she moved up to No. 2.”
Jacoby said he is looking for Axtell, of Bath, to play both singles and doubles during her senior year.
“Emily plays like she has ice water in her veins, so she’s very fun to watch,” the coach said. “Emily was my No. 1 last year before her injury and she’s the best doubles player that I’ve ever had at Our Lady of the Elms. I can put her anywhere, which is great because she was our best player and still might be. It is a huge advantage to have a kid like her on the team who is a great singles player and also so good at doubles. She’s a great teammate, too.”
The team captain this year will be senior Victoria Robinson, of West Akron.
“She will be a four-year letterman by the end of her career,” Jacoby said. “She is a jack of all trades who I can put anywhere. She also is extremely organized and she really inspires the kids to work harder. She is a very good teammate.”
In addition to Robinson, several players are “in the mix” to play third singles and for the doubles teams, the coach said.
“Hannah Boylen [of Fairlawn] is a four-year player who has improved every year. She is really excited to play in her senior year and she worked very hard on her game in the offseason. She is a very strong hitter,” he said. “Sophomores Abby Kushner Benson [of West Akron] and Alexis Armstrong [of Munroe Falls] are the future of my team. They are year-round players and they beat down the door of varsity faster than I planned last year as freshmen. I expect great things from both of them.”
Another player Jacoby said he anticipates to make a key contribution this season is Katherine Bukowski, of Bath.
“She is a senior who has been on and off varsity throughout her career,” the coach said. “She provides depth and she is willing to play any spot. She will challenge for varsity.”
Elms will start its regular season Aug. 12 at Highland High School and Jacoby said his team will play a very challenging schedule this year.
“We play all of the better teams in the area and we’ll be in a bunch of big doubles tournaments this year,” he said. “I would like to see us go further in the postseason than we ever have before and we’ll see if we can get down to Cincinnati to compete in states. That’s always the goal, and if the kids compete really hard and a couple of breaks go our way, then we could have a real chance.”
*This story has been copied from the West Side Leader*