Holliston Tennis Will Assess and Act on this Year’s Strengths

Christopher Tremblay, Staff Sports Writer
Issue Date: 
April, 2020
Article Body: 

Last spring both Holliston tennis teams were able to advance into the Division 2 South Tournament, but unfortunately, both teams also suffered the same fate – a first round loss. The girls, who went 9-7 on the season fell to Foxboro 4-1 in the first round, while the boys advanced into the tournament for the first time in 6 or 7 years after finishing the season with an 8-8 record. Like their female counterparts, they were also sent packing in the first round, with a 5-0 defeat to number two Duxbury.
Having lost two key players in Abi O’Neil, the team’s number one singles player, and Maddie Cerulli, one of the doubles players who had lost only two matches over the last two seasons, Coach Dan Giammalvo knows his team will have a tough team finding their replacements.
Battling it out for the number one singles position will be captains Madison Rankin, last year’s number two singles player, Mary Handstand, who has been working hard during the off season to acquire that top spot.
“Both girls bring a different style of play to the courts,” Giammalvo said. “Mary brings a big serve with power while Madison is consistent and steady. One of them will earn the number one spot, and the other will be second singles.”
Another athlete who could possibly challenge for the top spot will be Alyssa Brucato, who according to the Holliston Coach will give the other two girls fits on the court and may even catapult over them.
On the doubles, front Elexa Reiss and Brucato played first doubles last season, while Aya Helayle, who was Cerulli’s partner last year, all return looking to fill starting positions.
“Elexa and Aya both should be playing doubles for us once again this year; the question is where and with who,” the Panther Coach said. “At this stage, partners are still up in the air. It is way too early to know who will fit with who. We’ll just have to wait and see how things shape up.”
Sophomore Alisa Grisheckina, who plays tennis in the off-season will also fit into the team’s starting rotation, but as of right now where the question is. There will most likely be other athletes who decide to come out for the team leaving the Coach trying to decide who fits where.
“One thing that we know is that this team has depth,” Giammalvo said. “We’ll have to wait and see how things shake up, but we do know that we have the talent to do something this season.”
Last spring, Holliston finished third in the Tri Valley League Large Division, and although the Panthers have a lot of depth and talent retuning this season, the biggest factors that the Holliston Coach will face is putting that talent in the right places to make the team successful.
“When I first got to Holliston, I had the same situation,” he said. “I had to figure out where to put the girls and who worked with one another, especially for the doubles players.”
Unlike the girl’s team, the boy’s squad is in a totally different situation. While the girl’s tennis team has depth, the boy’s team is sitting in a different boat.
“We’re in an interesting situation with the boy’s team,” Giammalvo, who is also the boy’s tennis coach, said. “We have no real fire power with this team. We’re going to have to open the season playing from behind until we figure things out.”
Senior Adhu Ashokkumar is the team s strongest tennis player, and, according to the Coach, could quite possibly be one of the top players in the league. The senior, who is already being recruited by division 2 colleges, will be playing as the Panther’s number one singles player.
Alex Cohen, who played second singles last year for the Panthers as a first-year player, should once again be able to hold down that position.
“As a freshman, Alex won about 80% of his matches and gives the team another quality tennis player at singles behind Adhu,” Giammalvo said.
While the top two singles positions look to be solidified, the third spot is currently up in the air, as is the second doubles team. Senior captains Thomas Sykes and Nikko Alawani may team up to play first doubles for the Panthers this spring. Last season Sykes was the team’s third singles player, but both athletes have asked the Coach if they can join forces on the doubles circuit this spring.
“They both have worked really worked hard during the off-season, and I agreed to give them a shot,” the Panther Coach said. “Thomas has the instinct, while Nikko is quick on the courts. They both have great net play, decent serves and really like working together. It’ll be fun to see how it works out.”
Not having the depth that the girls squad has, Giammalvo is going to have to search for talent to take to the courts for the boy’s team this year.
“We really have no depth on the boy’s team. We do have a couple of seniors who have been on the team, but we’re going to have to wait and see how things shake out,” the Panther Coach said. “Rohith Ramanathan is someone who may work out as the third singles player for us, but it’s definitely going to be a tough first half of the season.”
Hopefully, the returners will be able to fill in some of the vacancies, and who knows? Maybe the Coach will get lucky and find some athletes who may want to take a swing at tennis.