A new era will begin in the Panthers tennis program as University of Akron graduate Steven Strasser takes the reigns replacing Vincent Hercules, who stepped down after holding the position for eight seasons.
Hercules posted a 66-71 mark during his tenure including a 9-10 record a year ago.
Strasser, who was an assistant coach at Akron Ellet the past two seasons, is excited about the opportunity at Manchester.
“I’m really looking forward to working with all the players,” Strasser said. “So far, it’s been a really good group of kids to work with. It’s my first season as a head coach and I’m very excited.”
Manchester will return three letter-winners from a season ago led by number one singles player Aaron Pohelia, a three-year starter.
“Aaron (Pohelia) is coming off a strong off-season,” Strasser said, “and we are expecting him to lead our team.”
Also coming back are seniors Collin Coben, and Matt Wison.
Other members of the varsity team are sophomores Brian Coben and Kyle Coben, and freshmen Joey Daniels and Daniel Mundy.
Ben Lippincott, Davey Squires, Logan Mospens, and Will McVey will comprise the junior varsity unit.
After back-to-back losing seasons Strasser hopes to establish a winning culture to the program.
“Our team goal is to improve on last year’s record,” Strasser said, “and to be better at the end of this season than we are right now.
“I’m not real sure what to expect with a young team, but I do expect we will improve as the season progresses. I expect some of the younger players to step right in, and be competitive this season, while building a good foundation for the next couple seasons.”
According to Strasser, strengths of the team include the singles play.
“We are strong at number one singles with Aaron (Pohelia), and expect whatever position Collin (Coben) steps into to be our strength,” he said. “We have a well balanced team behind those two.”
The pre-season has been somewhat difficult due to Mother Nature, but Strasser and his squad are making the most out of it.
“It’s been a little chilly, but we’ve taken advantage of all the practice time we had,” Strasser said. “We’ve have been outside a couple times, and have also had some inside court time. The kids have really worked hard and are eager to improve their games.”
The Panthers have 16 matches slated for the upcoming campaign, which is scheduled to open April 5 at Claymont.
Other opponents on tap are Hoban, Alliance, Coventry, Barberton, Firestone, St. Thomas, Field, Kidron Central Christian, Norwayne, Norton, St. Vincent-St.-Mary, Garfield and Tallmadge.
Manchester plays an independent schedule as the PAC-7 conference doesn’t recognize tennis as a team sport.
Page 2 of 2 - The Panthers home will be the Branhaven Swim and Tennis Club in North Canton.