FHS?tennis team has unusual makeup

Lisa Johnston has been the Fredonia boys’ tennis coach for eight years and has never had a season quite like this.

Twelve of the 15 players on the team have no tennis experience. What they do have though, is a competitive fire they have inherited from playing other sports.

For example, Tyler Cassidy played football, Kyle Leysath played hockey, Nick Johnston played basketball and Jin Kim wrestled this past winter. None of them have ever played competitive tennis.

Johnston, a physical education teacher at Fredonia, recruited the athletes during gym class and during the basketball season when her son Nick brought players to the house Friday nights for team bonding, which always involved ping pong competition.

“I watched them play and I told them they should play tennis,” Johnston said. “I held a tennis practice just for the basketball team. I am lending rackets to a lot of the players. It’s a really diverse group from all different sports who enjoy tennis and make it enjoyable for me. They are real competitive and have a huge desire to win. At the same time, they enjoy it.”

Johnston noted the team is diverse in many different ways. Her son Nick spent half of his life in Australia, Julius Woma is from Ghana and Kim is from South Korea.

The team does not resemble that of a tennis team as many of them don’t own their own racket, Nick Johnston plays in basketball shoes and Kim competes in his wrestling shoes.

“It’s not what I am used to, but I will take enthusiasm any day,” Johnston said.

Despite the shortcomings, the team is having a pretty impressive season with a 3-4 record. Nick Johnston accomplished a feat this season only his brother Marcus did a few years ago during coach Johnston’s tenure.

Marcus and Nick Johnston are the only two to win a singles match against Southwestern.

“We have had 50 singles matches against Southwestern,” Johnston noted. “Marcus and Nick are the only two players to win a singles match. They are a tough match for us. That was a proud moment for me.”

Cassidy noted earlier in the season that tennis is much harder than it looks on television. But these players are using skills they learned in other sports and applying it to tennis.

“I like the challenge of putting kids together,” Johnston said. “There is a lot to tennis. What’s neat is they incorporate their hand-eye coordination from other sports into tennis. Their footwork in soccer is similar to the footwork they use in tennis near the net. It’s been a very enjoyable season.”