Kennedy tennis trio in district

Second-year John F. Kennedy boys tennis coach Brian Fry has experienced a big turnaround in his program from last year, as the Eagles went from 6-9 in 2016 to 9-2 in 2017.

Leading in that turnaround are three players who are all very different in their paths to get to this point, but all share the same common goal–to advance to state. The Eagles will be represented in Friday and Saturday’s Division II district tournament at Akron’s Springside Racquet & Fitness Club by freshman singles player Armand Nannicola, and the doubles team of freshman James Martuccio and senior Justin Bofenkamp.

“(Justin and James) played as our No. 1 doubles team all year and they went 9-2,” Fry said. “They had a real strong season and Justin’s been a great example of what we really need at Kennedy. You’ll always have your one to three technically trained players, but to have a natural athlete like Justin come out for the team plays a big part in our program’s turnaround.”

Bofenkamp and Martuccio, the No. 4 doubles team out of the Boardman sectional, will face Chippewa’s BJ Galehouse and Connor Hutzell–the No. 1 doubles team out of the Wooster sectional, in the district quarterfinal.

Bofenkamp, a standout basketball player and football kicker for JFK over the last four years, wanted to play a spring sport his senior year, and that’s when he started showing up to Fry’s tennis center during basketball season to train.

The senior got to know Martuccio during basketball season, as Martuccio is on the Eagles’ junior varsity basketball team. Martuccio encouraged Bofenkamp to continue showing up to offseason tennis training and, over time, Bofenkamp showed a lot of growth.

As for Martuccio, he’s a classically trained tennis player, as he first got involved in the sport around age 8. However, over time he decided to pursue basketball and did not participate in tennis as much, until last summer when he was on the team Fry coaches at the Trumbull Country Club.

“Of all the kids this year, James is the most improved. His serves have gotten a lot better, and he’s had a number of first-serve aces this season,” Fry said. “It took a little time for the two to figure each others’ strengths, probably the first two weeks of the season. It’s going to be a little challenging for them to face a No. 1 seed, (and) I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But, I can tell you that they’re gonna play their hardest to the very end.”

Nannicola is another technically trained player who has been working with Fry since age 9. The freshman, who came out of the Boardman sectional as a No. 3 seed, will face the Hawken sectional No. 2 seed, Tony Massucci from Ashtabula St. John.

Fry says that Nannicola has experienced a number of signature wins this season, leading to the freshman earning a 9-2 record as the Eagles’ No. 1 singles player. Included in the wins are victories over state qualifiers Ursuline’s Luke Tsudis (qualified for state as a doubles player last year), as well as a hard-fought, three-set win over a prominent singles player from Notre Dame Cathedral Latin.

Despite the fact Nannicola was just a freshman, Fry had high hopes for him in the sectional, and was surprised that Nannicola was only able to manage a No. 3 seed when the dust settled.

“He really needs to get out there and trust his shots,” Fry said. “He kinda stopped hitting his shots (at sectional).”