YSU tennis players help teach the game


YSU tennis players help teach the game

By Brian Dzenis

bdzenis@vindy.com

BOARDMAN

Youngstown State’s Yossi Dahan is paying it forward.

The junior men’s tennis player out of Israel got his break in tennis thanks to Israel Tennis Centers, a non-profit that’s part-tennis academy and part-social service agency for underprivileged kids. ITC housed Dahan since he was 13 years old.

When the Penguins hosted the United Way of Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley’s Success After 6 program, Dahan embraced it.

“I’m proud to do what I’m doing here for the community that got me here,” Dahan said. “I think it’s important to help people that don’t have the same oppurtunities that other people get. Tennis is just a vehicle to teach them my values to become independent, respect each other and have good teamwork.

“You want to create champions in life, not just on the court.”

Tennis became a part of the Success After 6 thanks to a grant from the United States Tennis Association and a partnership with the Jewish Community Center. The sport was part of a summer program last year and there are weekly lessons in the spring from the USTA and YSU. This summer, the kids in the spring weekly lessons will be invited to a summer camp hosted by the JCC. Success After 6 had 25 kids from grades K-5 at the Boardman Tennis Center on Friday.

“The kids keep coming back so that tells me they like it and they enjoy it,” said Bob Hannon, the president of Youngstown’s United Way and YSU’s football play-by-play man. “For the United Way, it’s an opportunity to expose these children to something new. These kids normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to play tennis. Some may like it and stick with it and for others, they learn more about a game they didn’t know a lot about.”

The Penguins hosted the kids while they’re currently in a lull in their schedule between the end of non-conference play and the start of their Horizon League schedule this weekend. The women’s team taught lessons last week and Friday was the men’s turn.

“It was fun. They had me learning a lot and playing all types of games just to learn,” said 11-year-old Ce’Ona Green.

Both teams have had a rocky start to the season. The YSU women (6-9) lost their first seven matches before winning six of their last eight.

“We’ve got new girls and we’re learning how to fit together and build together,” singles player Noelly Longi Nsimba said. “It’s been very good and we’re ready for conference.”

Nsimba is tied with Sofia Macias for most singles wins this year with 14. She’s half of the team’s top doubles squad (10-7 this year) with Austrian freshman Tamara Teufl.

The men (6-8) had similar start, but have now won four of their last six. Ukrainian Danylo Veremeichuk has the top record at 19-6 in singles play.

The team usually plays its best in the Horizon League. The women are the four-time champs and the men are coming off a tournament semifinals appearance.

“Like every year, non-conference play is preparation, especially with the women’s side the past four years. They’ve never done well out of conference, but it’s preparation,” YSU coach Mickael Sopel said. “The guys know it and they’re doing a good job understanding the process. Things are clicking and we’re starting to look good.”

The women host Milwaukee on Saturday and both teams face Green Bay on Sunday.

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