Boys tennis: St. Augustine Prep players mostly unaware as coach Sam Miles picks up 300th win
St. Augustine Prep senior co-captain Jon Mimm kept quiet to his tennis teammates about what they had a chance to accomplish in Tuesday's match with defending Cape-Atlantic League American Conference champion Atlantic City.
Mimm didn't want to put pressure on his young teammates, especially with fellow senior co-captain and second-singles player Brian Balchiunas out sick and junior doubles player Walter Dilg having left the school.
The shorthanded Hermits fielded a team of three sophomores, two freshmen and a junior along with Mimm. The seven starters Tuesday came together to win 4-1, giving coach Sam Miles his 300th career victory.
"All of the (2012) graduating seniors were disappointed because we weren't able to do it on the last match of the season," Mimm, an 18-year old Mullica Hill resident, said in a phone interview Tuesday. "I feel it took the weight off the shoulders of the younger players not being aware of the milestone."
Mimm's first-doubles teammate, sophomore Matt DeMarco, was the only other team member in the loop. They played second doubles together last year. After the victory, they congratulated Miles and the rest of the players joined in when they learned of the news.
Mimm and DeMarco won 7-5, 2-6, 6-0. With Balchiunas out sick, junior Sean McBride moved up from third singles to capture a 6-1, 7-5 victory at second singles. Meanwhile, freshman Steve Sontag became sophomore Haddon Antonucci's new partner at second doubles to replace Dilg. The duo jelled instantly for a 6-3, 6-3 victory. Sophomore first singles player Louis Abenante, a 2012 honorable-mention Press All-Star, took down Atlantic City senior Brian Gallagher, also a Press honorable-mention pick, 6-2, 6-1.
"I didn't expect it today," Miles said Tuesday. "(With the loss of two starters), it didn't look promising at the beginning. But our guys came through."
Miles is 300-68 since founding the Hermits' program in 1996. He has won six South Jersey Non-Pubic A titles - the most recent one in 2011 - along with the school's first state Non-Public A championship in 2007. He was The Press' Coach of the Year three seasons in a row from 2007-2009.
"It's nice to have 300 wins," Miles said. "All the boys have contributed, starting with the 1996 team and onward. It's really a tribute to all the great players that have come through the last 17 years. They won it, not me."
Miles is in charge of a young but promising team this season. St. Augustine is off to a 1-1 start after a 5-0 loss to Mainland Regional (3-0) in the season opener. However, the third-singles and second-doubles matches against Mainland went to three sets, and Abenante challenged the Mustangs' Ethan Fischer at first singles before falling 7-6 (7-3), 6-1.
After dominating the CAL National Conference since its inception, the Prep moved up to the American Conference to begin the 2011 season. An American Conference title still eludes the Hermits. Though Mainland and Vineland are considered the favorites, St. Augustine could make some noise as the season progresses.
"I'm very happy with the way we started," Mimm said. "I think we have a lot of potential to do better than we did last year (12-9). The win (Tuesday) against A.C. definitely secures out spot amongst the top in the conference."
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