Whitehall-Yearling Roundup: Rams boys tennis team growing stronger

Frank DiRenna
ThisWeek group
Whitehall-Yearling’s Raymond Zhen prepares to return a shot during a 5-0 loss to Watkins Memorial on April 5 at home. The senior is playing first singles for the Rams.

Anthony Paletta continues to take pride in his Whitehall-Yearling boys tennis program.

The third-year coach has seen an increase in numbers despite the Rams not playing last season because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. 

“I was a little nervous after graduating all those guys last year and during quarantine, but we recruited. A lot of kids recruited each other,” Paletta said. “We have a young team. We have players from all grades represented really well, so I’m excited. It’s growing, just like many other teams, but there’s a lot of cool things that are going to be happening.” 

The Rams opened with 5-0 losses to Watkins Memorial on April 5 and Bexley on April 6. The match with Bexley was the MSL-Ohio Division opener. 

“There was much improvement from the first match, so that was really cool to see,” Paletta said. 

The league schedule includes matches against Division II state tournament contenders Columbus Academy and Wellington. 

Senior Raymond Zhen, who saw time as a sophomore in singles, is playing first singles. 

Junior Sam McQuate is playing second singles after also seeing time at singles in 2019. Paletta said McQuate also has emerged as a leader for the team. 

“I look forward to being a leader,” McQuate said. “I love being back. I’m so ready to improve because it’s been a long time, almost two years.” 

Sophomore Seid Nurahmed was part of the team during the preseason last year before the season was canceled. He is playing third singles.

Whitehall-Yearling’s Sam McQuate returns a shot during his team’s 5-0 loss to visiting Watkins Memorial on April 5. The junior is playing second singles in third-year coach Anthony Paletta’s lineup.

The remaining players are new to the sport and are competing for doubles spots. 

Senior Mikey Hernandez-Paz and freshman Sam Mbaye played first doubles against Watkins Memorial, with juniors Brenden O’Brien and Modoulamin Mbaye at second doubles. 

Seniors Carlos Mejia and Nick Miner and freshmen Amanuel Chalachew, Malachi Martinez and Ibrahim Ore also are seeking time at doubles. 

“These guys are awesome this year,” Paletta said. “They’re very motivated, supportive and academically motivated, which is really cool. ... I feel very good about this season. Our team is all about integrity, work ethic and diligence.” 

Along with the increase in players, Paletta has been pleased with the improvements at the team’s home facility. A practice backboard has been added thanks to a donation from a community member, and the Rams also will add a storage shed courtesy of another donation. 

The team also raised money to purchase new uniforms. 

“Coach is putting a lot of effort into this,” McQuate said. “He’s doing everything he can to recruit and get as many people. ... Our main goal is building because we only have two returning members, so everybody else is new. We have to build the team back up.” 

INSIDE THE RAMS

Coach: Anthony Paletta, third season 

Next match: April 20 vs. Grandview at McKinley Park 

Key athletes: Sam McQuate, Seid Nurahmed and Raymond Zhen

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank