After presiding over a rebuilding season last spring in his first year at the helm of the Princeton Day School boys’ tennis team, Will Asch liked the way the Panthers started the 2012 season.
Facing Notre Dame in its season opener on April 3, the Panthers breezed to a 5-0 win over the Fighting Irish.
Asch is hoping the win will be a harbinger of good things to come as the program looks to bounce back from a 3-6 campaign.
“Everybody played well, everybody was happy,” said Asch. “We have some seniors and quite a few good young players. We don’t have any superstars but we have a very solid team.”
In Asch’s view, sophomore first singles player Neeraj Devulapalli has the potential to develop into a star.
“Neeraj is a very good striker of the ball,” said Asch. “He hits the ball hard and has a good serve. He has played a lot of tennis; has done a lot of USTA Middle States tournaments. He may not be able to beat the best players in the area right now but he can compete with them.”
The Panthers have some good competitors vying for its two other singles spots. “Our No.1 is clearly No. 1 but the three next guys have all beaten each other,” noted Asch, whose team got beaten in its second match, falling 3-2 to Pennington last Thursday.
In the first two matches, Asch used sophomore D.J. Modzelewski at second singles and senior James Sanderson in the third spot.
“D.J. is a very tough competitor; he has worked hard on his game,” said Asch.
“He played No. 3 for us last year so he has experience. He is a very good listener and learner; he is a good student of the game. Sanderson played JV as a freshman and sophomore; he wasn’t on the team last year. He is a very good athlete. He has physical maturity as a senior; he is fast and strong. He doesn’t have the most beautiful strokes but they are effective.”
Battle-tested senior Matt Kilgore figures to see action at singles as well. “Matt is hurt right now; rolled his ankle on a tennis ball,” said Asch.
“He played a lot of tennis when he was younger. He is a very good player who hits the ball hard; he is a really nice player.”
The Panthers boast a nice pair at first doubles in junior Peter Kilbourne and senior Jason Hirsch.
“Peter is our best net player; he has a very good overhead and he is good at volleying,” asserted Asch.
“Jason is a very strong baseliner; he is a lefty and that gives people trouble. They have played together for a year so that is a big help. They understand each other on the court.”
Against Notre Dame and Pennington, PDS had the pair of Kunaal Patade and Adam Straus-Goldfarb at second doubles although Asch said others may get a chance at that slot. “There are a lot of kids close to each other; we’ll see how that plays out,” said Asch.
The Panthers have the right mentality to play some very good tennis this spring, according to Asch.
“I have some kids who really want to work hard,” said Asch, whose team has matches at Hun on April 11 and at Rutgers Prep on April 13 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament on April 16 at Mercer County Park.
“The chemistry of the team is very good; that is the most important factor. The kids are working hard on conditioning.”