Lenape senior Jack Lavin’s coaches and teammates refer to him as “the strange warrior.”
During Lavin’s NJSIAA singles tournament match last season against Cresskill sophomore Chikaya Sato, Lavin got under his skin as he built a comeback.
“Who is he?” Sato asked the crowd and his coach at the state tournament. “I’m playing a strange warrior.”
Lavin lost to Sato, 6-4, 6-3, but his performance helped him earn respect as one of the top high school tennis players in South Jersey.
“[Lavin] thinks that any time he steps on the court, he expects to win,” coach Tony Guerrera said. “Whether he is up five-zero in a set or down five-zero in a set, he still thinks he’s going to win the match.”
Lavin ended his junior season with a 29-6 record and finished in the third round of the singles tournament. He also helped lead Lenape to a South Jersey Group 4 championship against Cherry Hill East.
After his loss to Sato, he immediately told Guerrera he would come back stronger in his senior season.
“I’m hoping to get farther than I was able to last year,” Lavin said. “This year, my expectations are to at least get that to the spot, but I hope to get at least farther than that.”
Lavin qualified for the singles tournament in his first two seasons but made a jump in his junior year.
Mike Perrone, who played tennis and graduated from Lenape in 2012, helped Lavin elevate his game last summer at the Moorestown Field Club. Lavin worked for Perrone at the club during that summer.
After shifts, Perrone gave Lavin advice as the two faced off against each other on the courts. Lavin said Perrone helped him develop the confidence that he carries onto the court.
“He thinks a lot more,” Perrone said. “He doesn’t play tennis like checkers, he plays a lot more like it’s chess.”
Lavin has been Lenape’s No. 1 tennis player since his freshman season. Guerrera said the only other player to do that during his tenure is Nikola Kocovic, who went on to play collegiate tennis at Penn.
Guerrera also sees Lavin as another coach on the team.
Lavin organized a group chat with senior Marc Ignarri and his other teammates to set up weekly practices. When Lavin sees Guerrera in the hallway at school, he gives him updates on which players are joining him at practices.
As Lavin heads into his final season with hopes of bringing home a second consecutive Group 4 championship, Guerrera said his talent will be missed. But his leadership on and off the court will be missed even more.
“It’s not all about tennis with him,” Guerrera said. “It’s all about making an individual better, whether it’s a sport or as a person or in the classroom. He’s that type of kid that you’ll miss when he’s gone.”