SALEM - The Salem tennis teams started 2012 in a new league, but so far it's been business usual for the Quakers. Salem, who left the All-American Conference for the NBC, has played two conference games and has racked up two wins.
"Our top priority this season was to win the NBC and so far we're off to a good start with two wins," said sixth-year Salem coach Jeff Mooney. "I like the new league. At first it was a little nerve racking because I didn't know too much about the teams. I knew about West Branch because we've always played and I knew about Marlington because of the (Alex) Schaeffer kid, but other than that, I didn't know too much. From what I've seen, it's a very competitive league."
The Quakers, who won the All-American Conference White Tier title last season, began NBC play with a 3-2 win over Marlington. They next defeated Canton South also by a 3-2 score. Salem's senior standout Mitchell Marosher, who made history last season as the Quakers' first state quailifer, made a statement in that first NBC win by beating Schaeffer (6-2, 6-3) in No. 1 singles. Schaeffer is a three-time NBC Player of the Year. Marosher is a second-year player for Mooney.
He began his high school career at United before moving to Salem last season.
"Mitchell was a state qualifier last year, the first-ever for Salem," Mooney said. "We expect as much from him this season. We feel we should be able to win every first singles with Mitchell. We expect him to get out of the district and back to the state tournament and place."
At No. 2 singles, the Quakers return a three-year letterman in junior Jay Linam, who has been playing for Mooney since he was a freshman. Linam missed qualifying for state in doubles competition by one match last season and has become a solid and consistent winner for the team.
Senior Andrew Pietrazk has earned Salem's No. 3 spot and is another three-year player.
"We definitely are relying on Jay this year," Mooney said. "He's been playing for us for a while and we expect him to step up this season. We're also counting on Andrew, who worked hard to improve a lot over the summer."
The No. 1 doubles team consists of sophomore Mark Fredrickson (a second-year player) and freshman Marty Roth. No. 2 doubles are made up of juniors Saskia Wolfe and Billy Erksin.
Kenna Bullard is also back for her senior year and brings more experience to the court for Salem. Bullard is a senior and a four-year player. First-year players Josh Harbin (senior) and Jansen Paumier (junior) complete the 2012 Salem tennis roster.
Last season the Quakers finished the season at 14-5. It was the best finish in school history and the kind of success that can benefit the tennis program season for years to come.
"Our numbers are up by one or two this season at the varsity level," Mooney said. "But where I really see change is at the sixth- and seventh-grade level. I teach private lessons and that's where a see a lot more interest."
Mooney isn't hoping his 2012 Quakers can recreate the success of 2011. He's expecting it.
"At this point we're doing what I thought we do," he said. "We're 3-3, but we were without Mitchell in the first three matches. I think if we would have had him, we would easily be 5-1 right now. Like I said, our big thing was to win the league and we're 2-0 right now. We play West Branch tomorrow and we still have to play Alliance and Louisville, but I think we have a good chance of running the table in our league. We might not be as deep as we were last season having lost Derek (Shasteen) and Taylor (Fredrickson) but with our top five, we're capable of doing a lot and making some noise."