BY BRANDON SLOANE
As the Cooper City High School boys’ varsity tennis practice begins, juniors Nate Promkul and Vincent Ong step on to the court. As they move to opposite sides of the net and get ready to scrimmage, the dynamics seem to change and the mood suddenly becomes serious. Promkul winds up a powerful serve that rockets across the asphalt, but is immediately hit back by Ong with a strong forehand stroke. This volley goes on for a few minutes with each player powerfully striking the ball back at the other. As time progresses, their strikes become more and more powerful until eventually the ball skids out of play. Their teammates watch in admiration at the skill and ability each of these players possess. Ever since they were freshmen, Promkul and Ong have displayed outstanding talent and potential. As this year’s number one and two players, they are helping the CCHS boy’s tennis team climb to new heights.
Their evolution into the players they are today started with their introduction in the game of tennis. Ong, who is the more experienced of the two, has been playing for most of his life.
“Originally, I started playing tennis when I was seven, but I didn’t really start playing competitively until I was nine,” Ong said.
Promkul is newer to the sport but, because he is naturally skilled and a fast learner, he has been able to keep up with Ong.
“I started playing tennis 4 years ago,” Promkul said. “And I have been on the team all three years I have been in high school.”
As the two top seeds, Promkul and Ong each have their own unique responsibilities on the team. Promkul, as the number one seeded player, is responsible for being a mentor to his teammates and always trying to maintain good team chemistry and a positive atmosphere. Ong on the other hand, is the team captain. His job is to assist head tennis coach Christopher Tully in directing the team.
“As team captain I help Mr. Tully coach and support the team,” Ong said. “Whenever he is busy and needs something done, I help him out.”
There is a stark contrast between each of their skill sets that makes them unique. Promkul relies more heavily on his physical ability in order to succeed than Ong does. Ong is more of a “thinking-mans” type of player who relies on his wits to get by his opponents.
“Nate has a great form on his strokes and is a very tough player,” Coach Tully said. “Vincent on the other hand is very fundamentally sound and has a very cerebral approach to the game.”
Since both Promkul and Ong have been on the team since they were in 9th grade, there has always been a competitive nature in their relationship. Just recently, Promkul beat out Ong in a challenge match to gain the number one seed on the team. While this may seem like something that could ruin a friendship, being on the team together has helped the boys build a strong bond with each other that goes beyond tennis and cannot be easily broken.
“It felt really good to beat Vincent, but there is nothing personal involved in it between me and him,” Promkul said. “We’re still good friends and teammates on and off the court.”
This season, the CCHS boy’s tennis team has improved greatly from the year before, winning more matches as a whole. While this is due to the team’s overall growth, it can be said that Promkul and Ong have been catalysts that have helped this team become what it is today. And as the season winds down, the team is already starting to look forward to next year’s team. While nothing in sports is ever for certain, you can be sure that with Promkul and Ong at the helm that the team will do nothing but good things in the future.