First-year Althoff boys tennis coach Greg Nester admits it will take time to adjust to everything involved in leading his own high school program. But from a tennis perspective, the Crusaders couldn’t have anyone better.
Nester is a longtime teaching professional at both St. Clair Country Club and Kings Point Sports Club in Belleville. A 1987 graduate of Althoff, Nester is looking forward to the new challenge of being a high school coach.
In 2017, Nester has 14 players in the Crusaders program.
“It’s a good number of kids, and I like what I see so far,” Nester said. “We have players like Donovan (McKnight) who have played since they were little kids to other who are just starting to play.
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“I was a volunteer assistant last year when my daughter (Mary) played on the girls team, and I really enjoyed working with the players. It should be a good season.”
Led by McKnight, Althoff opens its season Saturday against Alton Marquette at Gordon Moore Park in Alton.
A senior, McKnight was a state tournament qualifier a year ago but struggled, winning just two games in two matches. But working with one of the top teaching professionals in the metro-east in Nester and perhaps benefiting from the first season of a two-class system in boys tennis, McKnight could have the opportunity to go deep into the Class A state tournament bracket in late May.
“Donovan has played a lot of tennis and worked hard on his game. Right now, we’re working with him on becoming more of an all-court player,” Nester said. “The two-class system in tennis for boys this spring is something which will be new to all of us, as it was with the girls in the fall.
“We’re not going to be concerned with that right now. Our goal is to work hard and improve every day, stay healthy and at our best when the sectional tournament rolls around.”
Other players returning with experience include John Orlet, Stephen Waltrip, Jimmy DelVecchio, Stone Galloway, Paul Fries, Daniel Hummel and Jimmy Monken.
Also expected to battle for spots in either singles or doubles are Trey Schmieder, Harrison Maine, Mitchell Kidd, Joey Bates, David Osthoff, Alex Conrad, Ben Michael and Jacob Land.