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No return

JFK senior Nannicola missed chance for another trip to state

Staff file photo ./ John Vargo JFK senior Armand Nannicola serves in his 2019 Division II Boardman Sectional semifinal. Nannicola, who made the state tournament last season, didn’t have a chance to repeat the feat in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The John F. Kennedy High School boys tennis team was doing some light hitting, hoping for some better news.

Schools had started to close in the middle of March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Maybe spring sports would return?

James Martuccio and Armand Nannicola would be the team captains.

Former JFK and Notre Dame University standout Michael Fredericka was helping coach the team.

Nannicola was looking to return to the state tennis tournament for his senior season.

“The stars were seriously aligned this year,” JFK tennis coach Vicki Orwig said.

The coronavirus outbreak overshadowed boys tennis and all spring sports as the Ohio High School Athletic Association canceled all sports in April, ending any thoughts of Nannicola’s run back to the tournament in Mason.

“He definitely would’ve been a state qualifier again,” Orwig said.

Nannicola, who lost in the first round of the Division II state singles tournament in 2019, wanted to get further in the round of 16 this season.

“I was looking to improve on my game throughout the season,” he said.

Nannicola was JFK’s place kicker for the football team and was part of the team which made a Division VII, Region 25 semifinal against Cuyahoga Heights — a team which eliminated the Eagles two of the past three seasons. JFK has made the postseason every year since 2015, including winning the Division VII state title in 2016.

“They did the best they could,” Nannicola said. “That’s all we could ask for, that everybody would become like a family and do the best we can.

“I’m glad that was my last senior season.”

It wasn’t meant to be for tennis, a sport Nannicola enjoys.

“I was very upset to find out we weren’t going to have a senior season,” he said.

He plays tennis here and there with friends, but nothing serious. Nannicola is enjoying his summer before heading to Miami of Ohio to study accounting.

He was making masks for hospitals, along with working at the Grill and Garden Cafe and Giuseppe Italian Market in Niles.

Nannicola would’ve had a chance to play with his younger brother, Romero, who was a freshman.

“I would’ve loved to play with my brother, seeing him on the team and spending time with him,” Armand said. “It would’ve been a great bonding experience even though he probably would’ve hated me for yelling at him if he missed the ball or something like that. Or him getting on me if he won a couple of points off of me.

“It’s an experience I actually won’t have.”

There were glimmers of hope in the first part of April, thoughts spring sports might be salvaged. Could the season be extended? Would there be enough time for everyone to be prepared?

As we all found out, the answers were a resounding no.

“I had to basically watch my senior season go and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Nannicola said.

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