Second-year Quince Orchard High School Band Director Eric Fiero contemplated applying for the boys’ tennis coaching position when it opened up last winter, but ultimately decided he had enough on his plate—Fiero also works as adjunct faculty in the Montgomery College music department. But when several of his band students approached him last month to see if he would consider taking over the program this spring, he couldn’t turn them away.
“I have three or four of the varsity boys in piano or band and had talked to them about how I played on my high school team,” Fiero said. “They came in and, I think half sarcastically, were like, ‘Hey, our tennis coach is leaving and we need someone to be our coach.’ I wasn’t necessarily planning on coaching, but the opportunity came and my wife agreed that I should (take advantage).”
Last May the Cougar boys were named Quince Orchard’s Most Improved Team of the 2017-18 school year, and Fiero said he hopes to continue building on the program’s recent success and keep pushing the Cougars forward. A former member of the Long Beach Polytechnic High (Calif.) boys’ tennis team, Fiero, who still plays recreationally, said he plans to draw on his own experiences to help guide his players.
“Just like with music, the same part of me that enjoys practicing an instrument or learning a new instrument, loves getting out and doing drills and working on the fundamentals,” Fiero said. “I’m excited to get out and play with (the team) and share with them the things I found helped me get better.”
Fiero has two major principles when it comes to coaching: He will never ask players to do something he wouldn’t and he believes in letting the Cougars’ captains take ownership of certain aspects of the team, rather than just barking orders. Senior Sahil Goel typically gets the team started on warmups and stretches. Fiero said by allowing student-athletes to take ownership, they become more invested in the team’s success and it promotes camaraderie.
“I remember when I was in high school, my coach would stand in the middle of the field while we did sprints,” Fiero said. “The only time he did anything was when he would sit in the middle of the court and hit us balls. When we practiced indoors (and focused on fitness), I was in there doing squats with (the team). I want to be engaged and part of the process.”
This year’s senior-laden team, which returned major contributors Goel and Zachary Pearlman, also welcomed two newcomers who are likely to make an immediate impact: freshman all-court player Aidan Clark and big-serving senior Rashaud Thomas, who grew up training at the Southeast Tennis and Education Center in Washington, D.C.
The Cougars open up their season on March 22 against perennial Montgomery County power Walt Whitman.
New Cougar Girls’ Coach Hails From Tennis Family
When snow showers on March 8 meant the Quince Orchard High School girls’ tennis team was in for another indoor, fitness-based practice, first-year coach Julie Lyst knew she had to make a pit stop.
“I went to the closet at my parents’ house,” Lyst said. “They had two fitness ladders, 20 (exercise bands); medicine balls.”
Lyst comes from a tennis family. She played tennis at Albert Einstein High and for two years at Montgomery College, along with basketball and soccer. Her father was a longtime teaching pro. Fitness and footwork have always been an important part of her training, Lyst said, and she intends to use them as a building block, laying a strong foundation for her players to lean on during matches.
With all but one doubles team back from last year’s 7-5 campaign, the Cougars are poised to pick up where they left off a year ago. Sophomore Ekaterina Sapoznikova and seniors Serena Tong and Paisley Hahn top Quince Orchard’s lineup, which hould
be able to rely on decent depth this spring.
Lyst’s rich tennis background—and coaching experience—should only serve to help Quince Orchard’s players develop, both technically and strategically. Lyst said she purposefully kept the roster small in order to provide the best individual instruction and focus on improving at the highest level.
“I want them to see from game to game within a match, and match to match, what they can improve on, and go from there,” Lyst said.