Firebirds tennis team enjoys life at the top

The Holy Ghost Prep tennis team has claimed two of the last three district titles, the most recent of which came in a 3–2 win over Lower Moreland earlier this month.

By Mike Gibson

For the Wire

Before Justin Goulet began as coach at Holy Ghost Prep, Lower Moreland and Harriton were the dominant District 1 Class AA teams. They took turns sharing the title most of the previous decade.

But change is in the wind in Bensalem Township with the Firebirds taking two of the last three district titles, the most recent of which came in a 3–2 win over Lower Moreland earlier this month.

All you need to do is look up and down the lineup and know that the Firebirds might be in for a nice run of their own.

Their best player, Nate Fioravante, is a freshman who plays first singles. Another freshman, Mike Peters, clinched the district game-winning match. №2 player Harry Kettelberger, is a sophomore.

“When I first started, Lower Moreland was the dominant team in our league,” Goulet said. “Now, we’re a young team with four freshmen and a sophomore among our starters.”

Now, they are an accomplished team as well.

Fioravante represents the level of player Goulet has been able to attract to the school. He is a year-round player who is ranked №9 in Middle States Tennis Association (MSTA) rankings of boys 14-and-under.

Not bad, considering that the MSTA region encompasses all of New Jersey and Maryland and the eastern half of Pennsylvania.

“Nate is definitely a fighter who has the will to win,” Goulet said. “His will to win provides enthusiasm for the team.”

Fioravante said he developed the will at a young age.

“I started playing tennis when I was 4 and started playing in tournaments when I was 8,” Fioravante said. “I guess that’s when I really caught on and got in the habit of playing all year.

“I never get tired of it. It’s such a great sport and it really challenges you and that’s what I like the most about it.”

While the freshman and sophomores have taken the lead on the court, it’s the seniors who have taken the lead off the court, according to Goulet. They include three senior captains, Eric Ciccotelli, Will Preston and Jon Purowitz.

“Those guys have provided leadership and shown the younger guys how to improve by working hard,” he said.

In addition to winning the team title, the Holy Ghost Prep doubles team of Fioravante and his partner, Brandon Fritze, another freshman, won the district title.

“I like both singles and doubles,” Fioravante said. “Singles, because you probably do a lot more out there and doubles because it’s not just you, it’s a partner and there’s a lot of strategy involved.”

Fioravante describes himself as “basically a baseline player. I can come to the net when the opportunity is there, but I’m short (5-foot-6) and I like to rely on my strengths, which are my serve, my forehand and my volleys. I used to never come to the net, but I’m finding I’m doing it more and more.”

As a team, the Firebirds went through the Bicentennial Athletic League (BAL) part of their schedule unbeaten (8–0), including a 5–2 win over the same Lower Moreland team they defeated, 3–2, in the district final. (While regular-season games have four singles and three doubles matches, postseason only competes three singles and two doubles.)

In the team tournament, Holy Ghost Prep earned a bye into the semifinals, where it defeated Pope Paul VI, 5–0, before advancing to play Lower Moreland.

In that title match, it came down to Peters rallying from a 4–1 deficit in the final set to pull out his match.

Fioravante and the other Firebirds all stood and watched. Their matches were completed and the teams were locked at 2–2.

“We started to root for Mike and the momentum eventually went his way,” Fioravante said.

No one appreciates the short high school season more than Fioravante, who labors without the similar support the other 10 months of the year.

“I get more enjoyment out of high school tennis,” he said. “In Middle States, you are just out there alone, not many people supporting you, except your parents, but, in high school, there’s a lot of people you are playing for you get a lot more support and that’s really rewarding.”

Winning is the biggest reward of all and that doesn’t look like it’s going away any time soon.