Schaffner named TN/LVHN Tennis Player of the Year
Tennis players typically need to focus on singles or doubles competition.
Excelling in both requires two different approaches to the game.
Pleasant Valley junior Josh Schaffner excelled in both this past season, earning District 11 Class 3A bronze medals in singles and doubles.
That feat, which has only been accomplished by two other Pleasant Valley tennis players in school history (Jon White and Jarrett Siwiec) makes him this year’s Times News/Lehigh Valley Health Network Tennis Player of the Year.
The left-handed player utilized his all-court game to make his way to the semis in the singles draw.
“Josh is definitely right up there with an elite group of players in the area, and has really made a name for himself with his work toward becoming a better player,” Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Allison said. “Getting two district medals is something that not many players can claim.”
Schaffner has great ground strokes, has improved his serve tremendously over the course of the past season and moves around the court well.
At the No. 1 singles position, Schaffner drew every opposing team’s strongest player.
“Being a lefty definitely poses a different kind of threat to players,” Schaffner said. “I’ve been self-teaching, sort of, and my strengths are definitely my forehand and my serve, so I try to play to those strengths.
“I’ll try to use more spin on my shots, be more of a variety player. I try to be able to do everything well and not really have a weak spot for opponents to focus on.”
In his freshman year, Schaffner tried tennis and liked it, earning a spot at the No. 3 singles position. After a barely .500 season and a first-round loss at districts, Schaffner became hooked.
“I joined the USTA,” he said. “I took a couple of lessons at Split Rock and Northwood, and I really decided to give this sport more of my concentration.”
In his sophomore season, Schaffner played at the No. 1 spot and went 10-7 before losing in the second round of district singles.
“I had gotten a coach from Kutztown,” he said. “I played in a few more tournaments in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, both indoor and outdoor, and really just got out there and played as much as I possibly could.”
That work and practice resulted in a strong campaign in his junior season. He finished 15-3 in his regular season to earn the No. 4 seed in districts.
After a first-round win, Schaffner took on his second-round opponent with memories from the previous year in his head.
“I had a tough draw in the first round and in the second round, that mental block of potentially losing started to creep in,” Schaffner said.
“We had a rain delay in the middle of my second-round match, and ironically, we were playing on the same court that I lost on the previous year, so I started to overthink.”
He moved on and nabbed that second-round win and two more wins before losing his semifinal match to take home the bronze medal.
“I’m happy overall with the season, but my mental approach is what I need to work on the most,” Schaffner said. “A lot of times I get in my head and I lose focus, and I have to take those tough losses and learn from them.
“I have this ideal player that I want to become, so I want to hone my skills and grind things out, keep working and improving.”
Schaffner also played doubles with Jake Ammermann, and the two produced another bronze medal.
Whenever a doubles pair features a righty and a lefty, opponents are essentially facing two forehands.
“In doubles, it’s totally different and you have to be able to work together and manage each other’s games well,” he said. “Knowing each other for three years and playing with each other, we really developed into better players and communicated well with each other.”
Schaffner was also on the Bears’ cross country team, but plans to drop that sport to focus on tennis. Academically, he ranks in the top 20 in his class and has aspirations of playing tennis in college.
“I’ll be playing a lot of tournaments in the fall and the schedule is going to be hectic, but I don’t want to put any limits on what I can accomplish next season,” he said.
“Josh is such a super nice kid and a lot of opposing teams’ coaches come up and congratulate him and root for him,” Allison said. “He’s a great representative of Pleasant Valley tennis, a good student, a hard worker, and earns a lot of respect from his teammates and opponents.”