Just like Scarsdale, Edgemont coach Mark Romney schedules matches against the best teams in Section 1 each spring. The big difference is Edgemont is a small school, an underdog.
The Panthers have won four straight league titles and this year will be the team’s biggest challenge as Bronxville has entered the league.
“If you talk about the small schools, the little tiny schools like Edgemont, where we have 80 boys in each grade, it’s us and Bronxville,” Romney said. “We’re the two teams in Class B that are really solid. That’s why play up against the As and AAs.”
Romney has turned down offers to play against the 3-2 schools — a three singles, two doubles format — in favor of sticking with 3-4 competition because Edgemont is typically deep.
“It just doesn’t work for us,” he said. “I go out and add matches. I add matches against what I perceive are the best teams out there that we can play. I’m looking to play Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, Byram Hills, Greeley, that kind of school. Class B school, what are you doing? I feel it’s the right thing to do. Win or lose it gets us stronger for our league play and for the sectional play. The proof is in the pudding. We have eight players qualify for conferences last year. We wouldn’t have done that if we hadn’t played a tough schedule.”
The Panthers are off to a 2-3 start, but when it comes time for postseason selection and seeding, Romney can point to the challenging wins and losses his players had.
The lone disappointment early this season was a 4-3 loss to Byram Hills, one of the most bizarre losses of Romney’s coaching career. The Panthers won 6 of 7 first sets and then lost the match, including all three spots that went to 10-point supertiebreakers.
“It was a great learning experience for our kids,” Romney said. “Everything that could have gone wrong in the second set and the three supertiebreakers did.”
This season the Panthers are 1-5 in supertiebreakers, which are typically a strength for the team. The lone win came against Scarsdale at first doubles as Ben Gilman and Jake Beyer won 3-6, 6-2, 10-7.
This year’s team is unique for Edgemont. There are 12 seniors, 11 returning, and most of them are in the doubles lineup.
“It’s a veteran team, but the interesting thing is the top of our lineup, first and second singles, are the young players,” Romney said.
Sophomore Ryan Ho takes over for graduated standout Lucas Chan at first singles and Will Mellis takes over for Ben Annopolsky at second. Last year Ho and Mellis split the third singles spot.
“It’s a different feeling when you have a young player who is trying to prove himself,” Romney said. “Ryan is our best player. It’s going to be tough matches for him, but he is an outstanding player. He is going to take his lumps along the way, but I feel like he is a tremendous tennis player. It’s a learning experience.”
Ho was an all-sport athlete growing up, getting a taste of everything. When middle school began he started leaning towards tennis and started playing more competitively. His ranking shot up and so did his confidence and dedication.
“Last year, I was able to prove that I am a great tennis player,” Ho said. “Although I lost my first two matches at third singles, I was able to bounce back and win almost all of my matches after that. It was a lot of fun last season and I hope I can have that same experience in the following years once again.”
The task of playing first singles is one Ho doesn’t take lightly.
“Competing against the best tennis players in each school is very daring, but I am up for the challenge,” Ho said. “Every time I step on the court, I always believe that I can win and that mentality will help me when playing against the top level players.”
Ho brings spirit, focus and intensity on the court as he attempts “to create entertaining tennis for my peers and team to watch.”
“Looking at my matches thus far, one aspect that I can improve upon is the mental game of tennis,” Ho said. “Being mentally strong on the court is the biggest weapon you can have in tennis. This means being able to handle adversity and not get too down on yourself when you mess up.
“Roger Federer is a great example of a player who has mental toughness. Federer will never give up and will always fight even if he is having an off day. Improving my mental game will help me get to the next level.”
Mellis starting playing when he was young and was also successful at third singles last spring. He enters his new role with a positive attitude.
“I am excited for the rest of the season and to play some really tough opponents,” Mellis said. “It is going to be hard, but when you play better opponents it makes yourself better as a player. On the other hand, I might lose some matches when I play tough opponents, but I will always give it my all.”
Mellis, like Romney, has his sights set on a league five-peat.
“We are also trying to go make a deep run in the sectional tournament because last season we had a tough loss in sectionals,” Mellis said. “We are all excited for the rest of the season.”