Tallmadge boys tennis comes back strong in 2021

Ashley Bastock
Kent Weeklies
Tallmadge Blue Devils

The Tallmadge boys tennis team only got a handful of practices in last year before spring sports were suspended — and ultimately canceled altogether — due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Weird is the word,” fourth year coach Steve Strasser said. “I don't want to say it was so sudden. You could kind of see it coming last year but it was still so final and sudden, like all right, the season is over, and that was that.”

Now, after more than a year of waiting, Tallmadge is scheduled to kick off the season against Revere on April 5. The program returned for its first official practice on March 8, and began conditioning three weeks before that when the Blue Devils got breaks in the weather.

Key returners for Tallmadge include seniors Sam Suber, Joey Williamson, Reece Parry; and junior Carson Cowley. A new contributor to keep an eye on is senior Brandon Blatt.

“The kids are obviously really excited,” Strasser said. “I think it's kind of been a long year for them and to get out and do these things, I was concerned about how many kids would come back, but we ended up with more kids on the team this year than we would have had two years ago. You can tell they want to get out, they want to do something, they're ready to play, so that is really cool to see.”

Strasser also credited his team for picking up where they left off, especially considering  that there was a wide range of what players were able to handle tennis-wise during the offseason taking into account the pandemic.

“A lot of the kids moved onto whether it was baseball, football or another sport,” he said. “But everyone has kind of picked up where they left off. Some of the kids were able to play a decent amount. Some of them, either they or their parents weren't comfortable going inside so they weren't able to play through the winter this year and stuff like that.

“But some of them were able to play and played through the summer. a couple of them played through the winter a little bit.”

Strasser said some strengths of this team are its depth, especially at the doubles positions, and the Blue Devils' senior class.

But overall, one of the biggest weaknesses is a lack of match experience, especially concerning the underclassmen. 

“The thing that's going to impact us a little more is the loss of the competitive matches,” Strasser said. “I didn't have a lot of kids who got up and entered in outside tournaments and were playing competitively. They may have been going to play with friends at the park and stuff like that. But I think especially early in the season, our first couple of matches, it will have been two years since a lot of these kids played a competitive match.

"That might take some time jumping back into that. Early in the season, that's one thing I'll be watching is how quickly the competitiveness and comfort in match settings comes back.”