Southern Boys Tennis Expects to Rebound From Slow Start
Joseph and Jalen Donwoody have been a pleasant surprise for the Southern Regional boys tennis team so far this spring.
The brothers – Joseph, a sophomore; Jalen, a freshman – have gone 3-1 early this season as a second doubles duo, a welcome find for Evan Brosniak, entering his eighth year as the team head coach.
Brosniak was scrambling this spring to turn around a program that finished 2-14 last year. He knew he had one peg to hang the team’s hat on: junior Tommy Franks, whom the coach said in a preseason evaluation has “progressed very well and has prepared all year” for his second season at first singles. Sure enough, as of April 11 Franks had gone 3-1, crushing Jackson Memorial’s Zach DeMetro, 6-0, 6-0; soundly defeating Tim Kelleher of Pinelands, 6-4, 6-2; and rolling over Toms River South’s Kyle Oliveri, 6-0, 6-2. His one loss was to Toms River North’s Kenneth Elliott, 0-6, 0-6, which wasn’t that surprising, considering Elliott captured the first singles title at the 2016 Ocean County Tournament.
But Brosniak was still figuring out how to put the rest of his team’s pieces together when The SandPaper contacted him a few weeks ago asking about the squad’s prospects in 2017. He knew senior Andrew Wohl and juniors Colton Little and Sean Distelcamp, experienced players all, would be in the mix but he wasn’t sure exactly where. And he didn’t single out the brothers Donwoody at all when trying to figure out how to use his team’s newcomers.
But Joseph and Jalen have not only won so far this spring, they’ve shown resilience as well. When Southern visited Toms River North for the team’s second match of the spring, they dropped their first set, 5-7. But they came back to win the next two hard-fought sets, 6-4 and 7-6 (10-6). And five days later they lost their first set, 4-6, when they visited Pinelands, only to roar back in sets two and three, 6-1, 6-0.
Little, who played doubles last season, won out in the team’s internal second singles competition. He’s had a rough start, but showed progress in his team’s fourth match of the season, taking his South Toms River opponent, Eli Rosen, to three sets.
Wohl, who also competed in doubles in 2016, emerged as the team’s third singles player this spring. Like Little, he got off to a rocky start. But he notched his first win of the year against Toms River South, beating Kollin Gregory, 7-5, 6-3.
Distelcamp, who was part of the second doubles duo last year, has moved up to first doubles for this campaign, teaming with junior Jake Henderson.
Expect Southern’s fortunes to turn around soon. As of April 11, the Rams’ four previous opponents had a combined 11-1 record. The next three squads Southern will face – Brick Memorial, Central Regional and Toms River East – have a combined record of 2-6.
And remember, Southern will go into those matches with two seemingly established pegs instead of one.
— Rick Mellerup