Panny takes over veteran group of Zephs
The Whitehall boys tennis team will embark on a new season with a good blend of varsity experience up and down their lineup as they look to build on last year’s excellent campaign.
The Zephyrs finished 13-4 last season. The stellar season also included a trip to the District XI 3A Team Tennis Championships.
This season will mark the first year with Robert Panny as the head coach. Panny replaces Guillermo Valera who coached the team last year in his lone year at the helm.
Panny has a long history with Whitehall sports having served as a football coach from the early 1990s to 2005. He’s spent 30 years coaching the sport, both at Whitehall and Nazareth, and brings with him a vast amount of experience in getting players ready to compete.
The Zephyrs enter the season with a number of players who played major roles in last year’s success. Seniors Nick Rohn, Nick Demjan and Joshua Mallory, as well as junior Daniel Lim, were instrumental in helping Whitehall finish among the top five teams in The Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.
That core group will be joined by seven newcomers, including senior Daniel Jablonski who will now be focusing on backhands instead of backstrokes. They also feature six freshmen as Cole Blumenau, Serge Kasparian, Daniel Labram, Joshua Laky, Kyle Patton and Gabby Roustic look to contribute as members of the varsity mix this season.
Senior Nick Rohn will slide into the No. 1 singles spot. He played at No. 2 singles last year, and will now be looking to use his dynamic serve to carve up opponents from the No. 1 position.
Rohn’s 2018 season included an appearance in the consolation finals of the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference where he met Parkland’s Ryan Guzman for third place at No. 2 singles. He lost 8-5 to the Trojan in that match.
Rohn was also a terrific doubles player along with Jeremy Lim last season, reaching the semifinals in the district tournament.
Panny said that Rohn has plenty of experience, and couples that with a strong skill set that makes him a mighty force at No. 1.
“He has good skills and he understands the game,” said Panny.
Panny said that Rohn is a powerful player who hits the ball with authority, especially in the service game.
“You can hear it coming off the racket,” said Panny.
At No. 2 singles will be senior Nick Demjan. Demjan was in the No. 3 singles spot last season, and he’s another four-year varsity member who brings a ton of experience to their singles lineup.
Panny said that Demjan brings good court awareness and understands the game. He also has as ease to his game.
“He’s very fluid in what he does,” said Panny.
Competing at No. 3 singles will be senior Joshua Mallory. Mallory was part of the No. 2 doubles team last year, often paring with Lim during the season, giving the Zephs a potent duo at that doubles spot.
Panny said that Mallory has a nice, steady game.
“He serves well, he volleys well,” said Panny.
Mallory, Demjan and Rohn have been around the program for four years and will serve as the cornerstones of this year’s team.
With their first two matches postponed, Panny said that Monday was the first time getting on the court for a full practice. As such, they still need to figure out their doubles pairings. Among the players who are in that mix are Lim who competed last season at the No. 2 spot. Lim is another seasoned vet who knows how to tailor his game to fit the demands of playing with a partner.
Also in that doubles mix is Jablonski. Panny said that the senior has a tennis background, but just hasn’t played at the varsity level. Panny said that he’s beginning to get the rust off and did some good things on the court during Monday’s practice.
Another player who figures into one of those doubles spots is Laky. Panny said that every day Laky is improving. He’s among a big class of freshmen players, some of whom have never played before, according to Panny. He said that their progress has been excellent.
Panny said that he would like to the see the team be competitive in every match. Panny believes he has the players who are capable of accomplishing good things.
“We’re just going to go out there and play,” said Panny.
The season is scheduled to begin Thursday versus William Allen, followed by a home match against Liberty on Friday.