Bethlehem High tennis more than just a team

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Offline Shahriar Mohammad Kamal

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Bethlehem High tennis more than just a team
« on: September 23, 2015, 10:14:54 AM »
It may not be too much of a stretch to strike the word "team" when discussing Bethlehem High tennis.

Given the familiarity the squad has with each other and coach Scott George, the 2015 edition is more like a family.

So far, Bethlehem is one big happy family as the Eagles navigate their way through the schedule with a long-range view of the Section II tournament in October.

Led by George, in his third year as varsity coach following a three-year stretch leading the junior-varsity squad, many of the players have come up through the program together, and some have been mentored by George for their entire high school career, or even longer.

"I know the families and the kids, going back five or six years for some," George said. "It makes for a better experience all the way around. This Bethlehem tennis family that has been together for six years for some of us, it's a special thing that most coaches don't get to go through."

George is just the fourth coach in team history, taking over in 2013 from Grace Franze, who held the position since 1980.

"She was the face of the program for decades," George said. "The one thing I had in my favor was being the JV coach under her. I learned a lot from her, and I think it eased the transition."

The familiar voice that George provides is important to his players.

"He knows our personalities well as well as our games," senior co-captain Emma DeFrancesco said. "He knows how to approach you. Coaching tennis is one thing; coaching an individual is another, and that has been very helpful."

Bethlehem has won its first 12 matches, including an 8-0 mark in the highly competitive Suburban Council.

A big part of the early success has been the play of the three doubles pairings, a focus of assistant coach Dylan Davis. The Eagles haven't lost a doubles match in Suburban play this year.

"(Davis) is just phenomenal; he is our doubles specialist," George said. "Singles is about physicality and technique. Doubles is more about communication and strategy."

Good coaching helps, of course, but Bethlehem also boasts talent, with a solid core amongst its six singles players.

"That is one of the major reasons why we win as much as we do," DeFrancesco said. "Those top three singles spots are tough. That support from the rest of the team is very helpful."

The camaraderie at Bethlehem is another factor in the team's success, as individual celebrations following wins are brief. The Eagles are quick to move on and watch their teammates still playing their matches.

"We do a lot of team bonding; we all get along very well and support each other after our match is over," senior co-captain Meghan Wendth said. "We go right over to the next court to support our teammates."

In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates rode the song "We Are Family" to the World Series championship. The Eagles are hoping the same theme continues to describe a season filled with success.