While COVID-19 wiped out the 2019-20 boys tennis season, the program certainly was chugging along on all cylinders. The previous season (2018-19), the boys team accumulated a record of 17-4, winning the Gloucester County tournament and defeating Washington Township and Cherokee in the South Jersey Group 4 tournament before losing to perennial powerhouse Cherry Hill East in the semifinal round.
This resurgence was led by former Kingsway star Drew Laverty. Now, Coach Laverty has been tasked with taking the girls tennis program to the same heights. This fall, Laverty has taken over for another former Dragon star, Michelle Carrocino, as the girls head coach.
“I have coached the Boys Tennis Team for the past six years, and the girls job opened up this past fall,” said Laverty. “I had always hoped to eventually coach both programs and, when the position opened up, I was really excited for the opportunity.”
Due to the pandemic, the team will operate on a shortened schedule, and Laverty wants to focus on individual and team growth. He also is focused on safety and playing more than results.
“We already had a doubles team place third in the Gloucester County tournament, and we have had some great team wins this season,” said Laverty. “We have a great core of upper classmen and some young players that I am really excited to watch grow the next couple years.”
Their first win of the season came in thrilling fashion against Timber Creek. The match was tied 2-2, and it came down to the second doubles team of Maddie Lavender and Ryan Finlaw. They won a three-set match, almost running out of daylight, which clinched the team’s first win.
“My hope is to build a strong team for years to come here at Kingsway,” Laverty continued. “I look to bring an energy to this team that will hopefully make us competitive in the conference and the county very quickly. While safety is paramount in this season, for a coach as competitive as myself, it has been tough to put winning secondary.”
Anyone who knows Laverty understands that he has high expectations for his team moving forward but also knows how to temper these expectations given how new he is to the program.
“Coaching the girls team this season has been a rewarding experience, and I could not have asked for more from them this season,” said Laverty. “They worked so hard in the summer and even though there were setbacks with COVID, they never stopped working. They allowed me to come in and change things up, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
In coaching both programs, Laverty has seen some similarities. Both teams are of equal size. They both take on the biggest teams in South Jersey. He also wants to have a strong varsity team and a lot of depth at the JV level. The drills and the games also stay the same, but they are tailored individually to both teams.
“Coaching the girls’ team has allowed me to be a little less intense, as we are just building up our program,” Laverty continued. “They pick the game up so fast, and they are extremely coachable. The boys team already is a very competitive atmosphere in the spring, and now that we have won a few titles, expectations continue to be high each year.”
With Laverty’s energy, it only is a matter of time before we are talking about the girls’ program racking up county titles and making deep runs into the South Jersey playoffs.
“Kingsway is home to so many great sports teams and athletic programs, and I want the girls’ tennis team to be one of them.”
By Christian Lynch