Hammonton High School tennis standout Pete Lancetta just spent a few days at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., during his senior trip.
He didn't pick up a tennis racquet, preferring to enjoy some sun and fun with his classmates.
"I had a blast," Lancetta said. "It was probably the most fun I've ever had."
Now that he's back, he's ready to help the Blue Devils reach some goals that have eluded them the last few seasons.
Led by Lancetta and fellow senior Michael Seligman, Hammonton is considered among the favorites in the Cape-Atlantic League National Division and could even challenge national power Moorestown in the South Jersey Group III tournament.
"I think this is going to be a strong season for us," Blue Devils coach Casey McCullough said. "I'm very excited. Moorestown is always a very good team, but I definitely think the opportunity is there (to win a South Jersey title) this year. In past years, it's been an impossibility. This year, there is no doubt that (the potential match) will at least be a battle."
Lancetta will also try to cap off what already has been the best tennis career in school history with some individual accolades.
A two-time first-team Press All-Star, he enters this season with a 72-18 career record. He already holds the school record for wins but would love to reach the coveted 100-victory mark. Lancetta would be the first player from a Cape-Atlantic League program to attain that milestone since St. Augustine Prep's Chris Berenato did it in 2010.
"I honestly don't focus too much on individual goals," Lancetta said. "I have a chance to get to 100 wins, and winning the CAL tournament would be great. But my main focus is on trying to help our team win a championship. I think we have a good shot at winning our division, and the door is wide open in South Jersey Group III. We don't want to just get (to the finals). We want to win it, and I think we have a good shot."
Much of Hammonton's recent success has been due to Lancetta and McCullough. Lancetta, son of Hammonton football coach Pete Lancetta and a wide receiver for the Blue Devils, has been able to convince his football teammates and other top athletes at the school to give tennis a try.
McCullough, a former tennis player at Triton High School in Runnemede and at Ursinus College in Collegeville, Pa., has been able to use a collection of newcomers and a few prodigies to turn a once-downtrodden program into a perennial contender. Last season, the Blue Devils went 17-6 and lost to Moorestown 4-1 in the South Jersey final.
"There wasn't much of a program when I took over (six years ago)," McCullough said. "But we've been had a few solid years in a row lately. We've got some talented players like Pete and Michael, but we've also got some players who weren't 'tennis kids.' But they are successful because they are athletic, and they are so focused and hard-working. They listen to everything you tell them, and they work their butts off every single day."
Lancetta has been playing tennis for years but didn't really get serious about the sport until five years ago. When he got to seventh grade, he decided to give up baseball and devote more time to tennis. He also played football for his father at Hammonton. Last season, he caught 10 passes for 155 yards and scored his first varsity touchdown against Oakcrest.
Although football always has been his favorite sport, he realized his future was in tennis and began to take lessons from his uncle, Paul Caruso, who was a college player. Lancetta's cousin, also named Paul Caruso, currently plays for Holy Cross High School in Delran.
Lancetta and Seligman, who is also his best friend, will each play for West Chester University(Pa.) in the fall.
"Baseball just wasn't my thing," Lancetta said. "There's a lot of standing around in baseball, and it just got too boring for me. I love football. It's obviously very big in Hammonton, and it's great to play in front of so many people. But I'm 5-foot-6 and 150 pounds. I'd get crushed if I tried to play that in college."
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