SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Spotswood High School boys tennis coach Daniel Krainski started off the spring tennis season with a full varsity lineup returning from last year and high hopes. Then, one player decided not to play this season, but one returned from injury and two freshmen joined the squad.
The season started off rocky with two losses to division rival South River High School and players slated to miss upcoming matches due to the DECA international conference in Atlanta and a band trip to Williamsburg. However, pulling together, the team ended up finishing with a 10-4 league record, winning Krainski's first Greater Middlesex Conference Blue Division title as a coach. The title winning season would also bring the veteran physical education teacher Coach of the Year honors. Krainski was tapped as Blue Division Tennis Coach of the Year and the Greater Middlesex Conference Tennis Coach of the Year. The Sayreville native has coached the boys tennis team for the past six seasons.
"It is a great honor to be voted for these awards," Krainski said. "Anytime your name is brought up with some of the great coaches this conference has, you have to feel humbled. The thing about this award is that it is all about our players. They are the reason I was even up for consideration for this honor. Especially in a sport where all the work is done prior to the event, the players have to perform throughout the year to make years like this happen."
"We knew this season we had a shot of winning the division if everything fell into place," Krainski continued. "The year didn't start off that way. We lost to South River twice in our first four matches. We had to scratch and claw to get ourselves in position to win."
The lineup was revamped on a few occasions to accommodate the players who represented Spotswood High School at the International Career Development Conference in Georgia and the players who play in the school's Concert Band, Wind Ensemble and Jazz Band. It also meant the team's two newest players, Luke Evanego and Connor Lennan would see their first varsity action as well as doubles players moving to singles positions and adjusting to playing with different partners.
"This past season was built with ups and downs, as all teams deal with," Krainski said. "We had players out in certain matches and the guys who normally do not play stepped up and delivered. That was the best part about this team, no one made excuses and still came through in the end."
Krainski pointed to the second doubles team forcing a third set and pulling out a win at Middlesex High School as well as coming through in a four hour home match against Metuchen High School as high points for the season. The clutch wins were key in the Chargers claiming the Blue Division title as was the consistent play of first singles player Derek Miller.
"I will say, this is all about the guys," Krainski said about the team. "From our number one to our number nine, the team this year really gelled and worked so well together. Everyone feeds off of each other’s energy and continues to work hard and push each other every practice. I believe this is the first step for the program that really began three seasons ago. The seniors on that team set a standard for them and they have exceeded mine and their expectations. They built this team together and won this together. I am so proud to be called their coach."
"This will be a team that I won't forget," Krainski added.
Last week Spotswood High School celebrated their spring athletes and their coaches. At the annual tennis banquet, Krainski's 2018 title-winning boys tennis team had a special gift for their coach; an honorary varsity letter for Cathy Ann Krainski.
Krainski's mom, Cathy Ann, passed away on May 29 after a battle with cancer. The beloved mom and grandma was 63. Wanting to do something noteworthy for the coach and express their sympathies at the loss of his mom, the team approached SHS's Athletic Director William Visokay about an honorary letter. Privately out of earshot of the family gathered for the end of the season celebration, the team gave Krainski their gift.
The members of the 2018 GMC Blue Division championship team include Derek Miller, John Tobia, Ryan Miller, Matt Evanego, Stephen Gardner, Matt Chludzinski, Josh Mathew, Luke Evanego and Connor Lennan.
In addition to the boys tennis team, Krainski also coached the girls tennis team in the fall. He's also been an assistant coach for the school's football program and head coach for the wrestling team.