Stow boys tennis looks to restart after lost season

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Stow-Munroe Falls Bulldogs

Stow-Munroe Falls boys tennis coach Selena Kim does not consider herself a typical high school coach in a couple ways.

First, the long-time instructor at the LaTuchie Tennis Center considers herself a "co-coach" along with Brian Banas.

Banas is nominally Kim's assistant coach during the boys' season, while their roles flip for the girls season in fall. Overall, Kim is in her 16th year with the Bulldogs.

Second, Kim wants to inspire her players to continue with the sport long after their high school days are over. In that regard, she considers herself successful.

"I can't tell you the number of kids who started with us who come back and play here [at LaTuchie]," Kim said. "Tennis is not like a lot of other high school sports. If you want to play [after high school], you can. Our No. 1 player from a couple of years ago came back and playing in adult leagues."

While she might be a different kind of coach, Kim was in the same boat as everyone last spring when COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the 2020 season.

"I think the blow was to those kids who came out, especially to our seniors," Kim said. "For the younger classmen, they lost a chance to play together."

Kim noted Stow's top two singles players — Jacob Shull and TJ Pockl — were unable to play their senior year in 2002.

Despite these losses and some low numbers in the program, Kim does not feel like Stow is starting from scratch

"I don't feel like it's a reboot. I think everyone is more grateful to just be playing," Kim said. "We're focused on just trying to get better.

"This is maybe the most beautiful spring we've had in years and we're taking advantage of it playing outside," She added. "Maybe it's that little light after such a dark year. The kids are appreciating it."

Kim also knows the level of play in the Suburban League National Conference is likely to be high. She notes she's not worried about competing for a league title.

"I don't put those kinds of goals on the kids," Kim said. "We're not going to worry about trying to go out and beat Hudson. Maybe the goal is to go out and beat Falls."

"Tennis is a sport that needs to be played constantly. It's something that you have to the work on. I know what the kids and trying to do. I just want the kids to go out and enjoy themselves."

Stow will open the season April 5 at home vs. Brecksville-Broadview Heights.

Kim indicates an example of growth within the team is senior Max Rostkowski, who will play first singles this spring after being "the No. 9 guy on the team" during his first year with the Bulldogs.

"He was pretty new to the sport when he first came to us,"  Kim said. "He's made the most of his time here."

At present, Kim expects her second and third singles spots to be filled out by a combination of sophomore Matthew Thomas and senior Will Allio.

"We're still hashing it  out," Kim said.

However, Allio has a compelling reason to switch to double this spring. His twin brother, senior Ben Allio, has joined the Bulldogs after running track previously.

"They have been requesting that it happens," Kim said. "I don't know that they're going to play together. It all depends on what's good for 

For now, Ben Allio will play at first doubles with junior Jackson Ramsey.

At second doubles, Stow will play sophomores Ben Oldham and Manny Stegall.

"The have played together a little bit this spring," Kim said. "Everybody is kid of new to the pairs because we didn't play last year."

Kim sees a bright future for sophomore Caleb Sun.

"I see a lot of potential in him," Kim said. "I think he'll be a great addition to the team."

With Stow not fielding a junior varsity team this year, rounding out the roster is freshman Nicholas Schultz.

"He's pretty brand new to the sport," Kim said. "It's always great to have a freshman, though. They can only get better."