Serving up success

JFK?junior Nannicola goes after state berth

Tribune Chronicle file photo / John Vargo John F. Kennedy junior Armand Nannicola, shown here in last week’s sectional, plays in the Division II district tennis tournament Friday at Akron, hoping to return to the state tournament.

BOARDMAN — Armand Nannicola lofts the small yellow tennis ball in the air. The force of his racquet launches it to his opponent.

It lands in the service square diagonal from him as the opposition tries to make a forehand return. The ball takes a quick kick and spins out of the player’s reach.

Nannicola, a John F. Kennedy High School junior, has another ace. He’ll try to have many of them as the second-seeded singles player enters the Division II Akron District tennis tournament Friday at the Springside Racquet and Fitness Club, starting at 9 a.m.

He has to win two matches to get back to the state tournament the following week in Mason.

“I think my serve is the key part of my game,” Nannicola said. “When it’s on, it’s really effective and helping me win.”

In his mind, there is pressure to get back to state, but you’ll never see how it affects his game. Nannicola’s mind is a blank slate out on the court, which helps him focus. That’s how he handles any undue stress.

“Just don’t think about it,” he said of the pressure.

JFK coach Vicki Orwig said if Nannicola has the patience he’ll be fine. It’s hard to tell if he’s upset, like a good poker player never tipping his hand.

“You can’t ever see if he’s frustrated,” Orwig said. “He’s always very composed. You have to keep reminding him of the basics that he knows. He can think of those things rather than what’s going on at hand.”

He wants to make it back to state again, but the talent around the area is tougher, including what he’ll see in the district.

It all starts with his service game. How fast does it travel?

“I don’t know,” Nannicola said. “Maybe if we get a radar gun out here I could tell you.”

Some of his opponents might be wondering the same thing.