New coach, new players for GHS tennis

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Apr. 17, 2012
GHS senior Ardian Ferraj holds the second singles slot on the Wolverine boys' tennis team this year. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
GHS senior Ardian Ferraj holds the second singles slot on the Wolverine boys' tennis team this year. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

This year, most of the faces on the Griswold High School tennis courts during boys’ practice are new, including the coach’s. Elysse McAteer has taken the helm of the Wolverine boys’ tennis team this year from Katherine Mann, who led the squad for more than two decades. McAteer, a teaching intern in Griswold High School’s special education program through Sacred Heart University, played tennis for four years in college at St. Joseph College in West Hartford. She captained the team for two of those years. She also coached Plainfield High School’s junior varsity girls’ basketball team last season.

McAteer said she’s been impressed by her players’ athleticism. Even though many on the team are fairly new to tennis, they’re already in great shape from playing in other sports, she said. “They work very hard and they really want to improve,” she said. “It’s nice to coach a bunch of kids who want to learn.”

The team lost six seniors last year, which amounted to more than half of the varsity team. Among the losses was the near-unbeatable, nationally-ranked Brandon Roode.

Even players in some of her top varsity slots are newbies, McAteer said. Number-one singles player William Dorff has only been playing tennis for a few months, but he’s picked up speed and endurance from cross-country running. Fellow senior Ardian Ferraj, at second singles, comes from the soccer field, as does his soccer teammate and classmate Kevin Laraia, whom McAteer describes as “a phenomenal athlete. He picked up the game so quickly.” Senior Jem Sraman plays the fourth varsity singles slot.

First doubles teammates Zack Rice, a senior, and sophomore Jordan Bradeen have a bit more experience under their belts. “They played together last year quite a bit,” said McAteer. In second double, juniors Jacob Nelson and Reuben Garcia are paired.

The new coach hopes to develop her team’s basic skills, especially a consistent groundstroke and good volleys. “They’ve got to get into that mindset to just get that ball over the net,” she said. They’ll be facing some especially challenging competition, as always, from St. Bernard, but won’t have to confront former nemesis Stonington this year, since the Bears moved up to Medium division in the ECC. “Our conference is very challenging in general,” said McAteer.

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