Boys tennis perseveres to make most of tough season


Kate Popoff

Milford boys tennis team after their match against Lakeland.

Lily Gatesman, Staff Writer

As the back-to-school season quickly approached, students were filled with conflicting emotions. But for an overwhelming number of tennis athletes, the most prominent emotion they felt was that of excitement.

As the Milford Boys Tennis team got ready to start a season full of battles, Head Coach Rich Kynast and Assistant Coach Rick Wank prepared to lead the team.

However, this year was different than previous years. Roughly a year ago, Kynast was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. With juggling teaching responsibilities and coaching while frequently having to miss for treatment, Kynast needed help with the program and added Wank. “The school has been fantastic,” said Kynast. “They hired an assistant coach. We’ve never had an assistant coach before.”

Even while struggling through his battle, Kynast remained spirited and enthusiastic in both his coaching and teaching positions. The team, along with the parents of athletes, assisted with all they could as they know just how important Kynast is to them and the players.

The Milford tennis team has struggled with numbers in the past, and unfortunately this year has been no different. The team consists only of 13 boys: a much smaller group than the average team.

Despite this, they continue to go out and compete with passion and Kynast felt good about the team this year. “We got an influx of freshman talent,” Kynast said. “Some nice athletes like Blake Gatesman, Mike Hall and Jacob Belliston.” With four freshmen joining this year, Kynast is excitedly anticipating the new potential to hit the court. This team is always looking for committed, hard-working athletes, trying to advance their skill sets or even just to learn to play tennis and be a part of a larger family of athletes.

Senior twins Luke Jaklic and Naethan Jaklic, despite only joining the team last year, have now become some of the leaders. Luke Jaklic and Naethan Jaklic are three-sport athletes at the school. They both play tennis and basketball. Luke plays baseball while Naethan plays golf.

Even though it’s only their second year on the team, the Jaklic’s compete as some of the top competitors, often with another senior, Nathyn Popoff. “Honestly, I just wanted to try a new sport and tennis seemed pretty fun, so I just tried out for the team,” Luke Jaklic said.

Naethan Jacklic reflected on his growth since joining. “I improved this year on serving and keeping the ball in play,” he said. It’s clear that Kynast loves having Luke and Naethan Jaklic on the team, not only for their athletic ability, but also for their competitive spirits and drive.

Senior twins Naethan and Luke Jaklic after their game against Lakeland.
(Lily Gatesman)

As some of the leaders of the team, the Jaklic twins hope to help inspire others to join the tennis team and come play and have fun. “Being a leader on this team is not that hard, since I love everyone on the team,” Luke Jaklic said. It’s made apparent that the team has a sense of family with all its players, both the new and the old.

As a whole, the passion and excitement experienced by this team is what high school sports are all about: having fun and playing with your friends. This doesn’t mean you have to be the most skilled in your sport to play; sometimes, if you try something new, it will work out for the better.

Athletes like Luke Jaklic and Naethan Jaklic are prime examples of the amazing improvements the team has made over the past season. “At the beginning of the season till now, the team has been a lot better,” Luke Jaklic said. “We have improved so much from then till now.”

These athletes have been putting in the work and passion, all through this season, to best represent our school. Kynast sees the potential in these athletes and is well aware that, although losing five players will be difficult, recruiting new committed players will make this program a lot stronger in the long run.

This is what Milford is all about: forming a sense of community and helping one another during tough circumstances. The more experienced athletes mentor the beginners, and bring them all closer together. Milford tennis may not have the best record, but each of the athletes puts forth their best effort. It should be about the team dynamic and simply, having fun because high school will be over before you know it.