Senior leaders, talented newcomers have Comet tennis riding undefeated hot streak
Matthew Smith | Staff Writer
The boys tennis team is serving up a dominant season.
The team is undefeated on the year, 12-0, and have won all but one match five courts to none.
They have many experienced seniors leading the team, including two-time Greater Miami Conference (GMC) player of the year Niraj Komatineni at first singles. It’s not just experience this year though, with two of their top singles players being freshman as well as two sophomores on varsity
The mix of old and young players has been a test for head coach Mike Reid’s program, but Reid said that he thinks the team has handled it extremely well, with leadership from the seniors.
“I think that everyone on the team has done exactly what we’ve asked and played their role really well,” Reid said. “The seniors have been great mentors for the young guys throughout the season as they learn more and more about being varsity tennis players.”
Being new to a varsity setting requires adjustments. For the freshman on varsity this year, it’s no longer middle school, it’s the real deal. Freshman Vignesh Gogineni, who operates as the Comets 3rd singles player behind Komatineni and fellow freshman Anish Gangavaram, said that it had been a big change to be on varsity his first year, and it requires a lot of focus and dedication.
“There are really high expectations from the coaches and everyone else in the program. We practice for around 3 hours a day, so we are expected to meet that expectation,” Gogineni said. “At the matches as well as practice it’s critical that we stay focused so that we are able to play to the best of our ability and not get nervous or distracted.”
Competing among the best in the city is a tough adjustment for a 14 or 15 year old, but while playing with others guys in the same spot, the learning curve becomes a little easier.
Gogineni said that it has been really helpful to have other freshman and sophomores trying to learn the intricacies of being a varsity player alongside him.
The other freshman and sophomores on the team are guys I already know,” Gogineni said. “To learn with them and come to practice everyday and work with them helps us all out. Together we continue to become more and more a part of the team.”
Leadership is always key to a team, but with half your team as underclassmen, it becomes much more critical to being successful.
Komatineni said that all the seniors have really tried to take on the role of being a leader and mentor to the younger guys to get the most out of this team’s talent.
“It’s been important that we all step into our roles, and as seniors, show the younger guys what it takes to win,” Komatineni said. “We are trying to show the freshman and sophomores that this is a team sport. We all pump each other up, and at the end of the day we are always there for each other.”
The underclassmen agree that the team has grown together with leadership from the seniors. Gogineni said that the upperclassmen have included the younger guys in everything and made them feel like and equal part of the team.
“We have a lot of team dinners and bonding experiences that give (the underclassmen) an opportunity to become more apart of the team.” Gogineni said. “There is never a time when I don’t feel a part left out. I just feel like I’m one of the guys.”
With the increased role team chemistry has for these Mason Comets, it has led to an undefeated record and put them at the top of the GMC. Komatineni said that including everyone is something he always strives for, but it all comes down to winning and reaching the team’s goals.
“(The seniors) always make sure that we pick up the freshman or drop them off if they need a ride somewhere, and invite them to team bonding off the court,” Komatineni said. “But at the end of the day if you can play you can play. Our biggest goal is to win state, and we need anyone that can help us accomplish that.”
After winning the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association (OTCA) state title last spring, Komatineni said he believes the Comets are fully capable of going back to the tournament and winning as long as they pay attention to detail and continue to concentrate on improving at every position.
“We need to stay focused,” Komatineni said. “Having as much talent as we have it’s about not getting carried away. St. X has the best team they’ve had in over 10 years and in order to get back to the state final four we are going to have to beat them on their courts. It’s a tall order but we’ve been training all year for it so I think our guys are ready.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.