Coach Jeff Roth said that the two Hungarian exchange students on his Niagara Falls tennis team are becoming more Americanized by the day. He kiddingly wonders if that's a good thing.
"The younger one starts to throw American slang like, 'What's up, dog?' And then he starts giggling," Roth said. "I told him they're not going to let you go back.
"He repeats everything I say. I'll say, 'We need to win today,' and he'll say, 'We need to vin today. It's typically pretty amusing."
Junior Gyula (pronounced you-la) Forgo and his freshman brother, Gabor, have brought more than their wit to the Wolverines. They've also got game.
Both are gifted players, and their early-season play has been the talk of the Niagara Frontier League. The boys are natives of Kecskemet, Hungary (population 105,000). They arrived in the United States last June and have been living in LaSalle with their aunt and uncle, Violet and Gary Haraszthy.
Gyula said high schools throughout Europe do not offer athletics. To play, teenagers have to pay to join a club. He loves representing his school and the convenience of playing right after school.
When he's not playing tennis or flirting with making the honor roll, Gyula said he likes to go bowling and play poker with his many friends. He started learning English in fifth grade, but said he still finds the language difficult.
Gabor has quickly adjusted to American culture, but the one thing he finds odd is so many of his classmates are employed. "Everyone here has a job," he said. "At home, nobody works, not until you get to be 18-19. Sometimes on weekends my friends are at their jobs."
Roth said the brothers have provided the "excitement" on bus rides and electrified the team with their play.
"Niagara Falls is not a hotbed of tennis," said Roth. "So for the other kids to see really good players has helped the team a lot. The kids have learned a lot in practice because visually they can see what it's supposed to look like. The younger kids don't want to practice -- they just want to stare at these guys."
Duncan back at Nichols
After spending his junior year at Saddlebrook Resort in Wesley Chapel, Fla., Fred Duncan has returned to Nichols to graduate with his class.
Duncan (7-0 start) probably won't see his toughest competition until later this season when Nichols plays at Western Reserve (Ohio) and Shadyside Academy (Pittsburgh).
Duncan has a fierce serve (115-120 mph) and a strong forehand. He hits hard from the baseline, but also loves to attack the net. In the fall he'll attend Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia on a partial scholarship and study pre-law.
Duncan was 78th in singles in the USTA's Eastern ranking in the boys 18 division. The Eastern zone includes all of New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut.
Nichols coach George Kloepfer said Duncan is the best player he's coached since T.J. Klier (who went to Maryland) in 1995. "He's got a big serve and great ground strokes and good hands at the net," Kloepfer said.
Prime time players
Maple Grove senior Jonathan Luce is chasing history as he attempts to win his third consecutive Section VI title. The most recent players to do it are Williamsville East graduates Randy Rocchio (2001, 2000, 1999) and Anil Gupta (1996, 1997, 1998). Luce has a tremendous forehand and serve. He'll have plenty of competition in the postseason from sophomore Chris Post of Southwestern, who lost to Luce in last year's final, 6-3, 6-4. Another talented Southern Tier player is Dusty Nelson of Maple Grove.
Sophomore Ari Binder, the No. 1 singles player at Amherst since seventh grade, has yet to lose an ECIC match. He's consistent in placing shots and stays one ball ahead. The much-improved Binder looks to play deep into this year's sectionals, where he lost in last year's semifinals to Post, 6-0, 6-2. Binder is 56th in singles by the USTA in the boys 16 division in the March rankings published April 6.
Junior Matt Manzella has Orchard Park off to a 4-0 start. He's looking to go to states for the third year in a row.
Niagara-Wheatfield senior Nick Bolea is in his fourth year at No. 1 singles. He's off to a 3-0 start after finishing 14-0 last year.
Falcons coach Art Johnson, in his 37th season, said "Nick is the best player we've ever had. He returns everything and can hit with power. He's got more power than he's ever had. We put him in the weight room. That has really helped him."
Junior Steve Beatty has found his rightful place at No. 1 singles for Grand Island. "He's kind of grown into the position. I've always tried to keep him working his way up, to give him experience at all the positions," said coach Don Pray.
Beatty started at second doubles as a seventh grader, third singles as an eighth grader, second singles as a freshman, and first singles as a sophomore last year. He gave Luce his closest set of the sectionals, taking him to 7-5.
Senior Danielle Viola of Niagara Catholic, the girl who won the boys Monsignor Martin Association title the past two years, has been sidelined by mono. She was cleared Monday by her doctor and should be on the courts today when the Big Red plays defending league champion Canisius.
Lockport's Greg Bohneberg has come back strong from wrist surgery. Bohneberg broke his wrist two weeks before the season while doing drills at the Village Glen. He practiced left-handed until getting cleared by his doctor. . . . City Honors looks to extend its streak of Dr. Bapst Series championships to 11. Senior Jacob Fox has been the team captain the last three years. The Lady Centaurs are off to a 4-0 start with Poonsinsiri Poolsuk, a foreign exchange student from Thailand, playing first singles. In a match that could decide the league title, City Honors plays Hutch-Tech on May 11 at Delaware Park. . . . Seniors Tyler Case and Chad Hanel (Roy-Hart) look to return to states after going at No. 2 doubles last year. Other top players in the Niagara-Orleans League are senior Mike Giazzon (Newfane), senior Brad Hall (Albion), junior Mark Fuller (Medina) and senior Leighton Johnson (Barker). . . . Nardin looks to continue its dominance of the Monsignor Martin Association after finishing 10-0 last year. The Gators have a strong core of seniors with Lisa Moroczko, Sheila Hagerty and Sara Shookus. . . . The Niagara Frontier League is starting a playoff tournament to determine the two singles players it sends to sectionals. In the past, singles players were decided by season records. The tournament is May 6-7 at Niagara University.