Howland seniors leading Tigers tennis team

HOWLAND – Senior leadership.

For some teams, it means stability.

For Howland High School girls tennis coach Paul Newlove, it signifies his moment of zen.

“I don’t have to explain things to the younger girls quite as much,” said Newlove after Monday’s two-match sweep of Niles. “The older girls can explain things to them. The older girls also calm me down quite a bit, ‘OK coach, chill.’ I get a little bit excited. So, it’s good for both of us and it’s good for the team.”

The senior leadership has led the Tigers to a 12-2 record, and the team is on pace to win the most in Newlove’s eight seasons as coach.

Canfield beat Howland 4-1 in each of the team’s two meetings. Newlove hopes Thursday’s match at Poland won’t be the third loss.

“If we beat them, it’s probably going to be the best year in our history,” Newlove said. “I can’t remember another girls team that has only lost two.”

Seniors Deena Awadalla, Marissa Jocola, Michelle Lussier and freshman Bella Elisco have rotated as the team’s singles and doubles. All four, at one time, have been the team’s No. 1 singles player.

“All four play differently, giving the opposition something different to look at,” Newlove said.

The first doubles team of Jocola and Lussier were one game away from last year’s Division I districts.

“We lost on a tiebreaker in our third match. We just want to get there and see how well we can do from there,” Lussier said.

“He (Newlove) has put us up against better teams like Canfield and Poland,” Jocola said. “That’s really good practice. We’ve become closer too, so that helps with the communication.”

Then, the second doubles team of seniors Harvest Radich and Natalie Orr are undefeated. They scored Howland’s lone point against Canfield in the first match, but didn’t play against the Cardinals the second time around.

It’s been a versatile group of seniors leading this group, none more than Lussier, who works at Squaw Creek Country Club.

Part of her job is to fill in as fourth player in a random doubles match or volley with some members at Squaw Creek.

“It makes you a more versatile player and it helps with the rest of your life, however long you want to play tennis,” she said. “It’s a sport you can play for the rest of your life. The more versatile you are with it, the more you enjoy it and the better you are.”

Lussier has been part of a senior class that has shown the 12-2 Howland team, which plays today at John F. Kennedy, how to come together.

“We show them how much tennis really helps you in life,” Lussier said. “I’ve made life-long friends in tennis. My senior teammates, we’ve been through a lot together – different lineups, different people coming and going. There’s no drama. It’s really nice. We try to set a better example for the underclassmen so they can see how to be when they’re seniors.”