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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, May 7, 2009

Tennis Blackbirds pull together as team players

By Jordan J. Michael

VOORHEESVILLE –– Tom Kurkjian has seen the best of the best and the worst of the worst in his 36 years of coaching the Blackbird tennis team.

“Usually, nothing surprises me anymore because I’ve seen it all,” Kurkjian said during a match against Schalmont on Friday. “However, this year had an odd twist. I had 30 guys show up for the pre-season meeting.”

Kurkjian told The Enterprise that he was hoping to have nine players, but that was greatly exceeded. “I still don’t know why so many kids came out for tennis,” he said. “I’m dumbfounded, really. Somebody said something flattering about it, but that couldn’t be right.”

It was the first time Kurkjian had ever thought about cutting people in all the years of coaching tennis at Voorheesville. A few kids left on their own, but no cuts were made. The roster stands at 23 players.

“I’ve never cut anyone and I’ve never had more than, maybe, 14 players,” said Kurkjian. “Even if I took the top 12 guys, we wouldn’t win the championship because Albany Academy has it locked up.”

In the Blackbirds Colonial Council match against Schalmont on Friday, the team didn’t win a single match, losing 7-to-0. It may be a rebuilding year, but Voorheesville has won some matches along the way.

“I don’t like the word ‘rebuilding’ because you’re always building things up,” said Kurkjian. “I’d rather say that I lost a lot of veterans and this is what I’m left with.”

“This is the only season where I haven’t been worried about wins or losses,” Kurkjian said. “I just want to give everyone a chance to play and learn the game. I feel like the outcome of this match would be the same, even if I played my top nine.”

Stephen Barron, the number-one Blackbird seed of the day, lost, 6-3, 6-3. David Suozzo, playing the second seed, lost in three sets, 6-1, 6-7, 6-0. R.J. Cave and Gre Gruss pushed their doubles match to three sets before losing, 4-6, 7-5, and 11-9.

Tennis teams usually have set seeds throughout the season, but with 23 athletes on the Voorheesville roster, no seeding is consistent.

“We have a different line-up for every match,” said Kurkjian. “A kid who may have played every match last year is sharing time because I’m pulling them to give others a chance.”

“I have the luxury of extending the time of tennis because I don’t teach full-time anymore,” Kurkjian said. “I think everyone’s happy to be playing because most of them didn’t play before.”

Voorheesville won 10 Class C titles between 1975 and 1995 under Kurkjian. The team hasn’t seen a sectional final since that era.

“We had a good shot at a title back in 2006 and 2007, but we ran into a tough LaSalle team both times,” said Kurkjian. “The classifications back then were all screwed up. LaSalle should have been in Class A. But that’s a different story.”

Kurkjian told The Enterprise that he has a lot of young talent on both the boys’ and girls’ side of the court. “We’ll be back to the winning ways in a couple years if these players stick around,” he said.

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“This is definitely the weirdest season I’ve ever had, but its one of my favorite because we all pulled together and figured it out,” Kurkjian concluded. “I’m excited to watch these young players