PHILADELPHIA Erick Torres Jara demonstrates the epitome of composure under pressure during competition.
The Indian River junior made an immediate impact for his schools soccer and tennis teams upon his arrival to Fort Drum less than four years ago.
Soccer is a team sport, Torres Jara said. But since I play singles in tennis I feel more relaxed because I dont have to worry about letting other people down.
His calm and confident disposition is what sets him apart from many other players, and its what Indian River tennis coach Patricia Gorman likes most about him.
He lets his tennis speak for himself, Gorman said. Hes not arrogant and cocky, and a lot of tennis players are that way, even in the professionals.
Gorman has observed many other players cussing and performing mini tantrums on the court when under pressure, but not Torres Jara.
He doesnt get frustrated, never throws his racket or does anything like that, Gorman said. He never gets ruffled. Hes just calm as can be.
Torres Jara has registered a 7-1 record this season at first singles, losing only to Ryan Charlebois of Alexandria on Monday. There are two more regular-season matchups remaining.
A native of Peru, Torres Jara started playing tennis in seventh grade while his family was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky. His brother Aldo, in his senior year, was playing for the first time, too.
Torres Jara arrived at Indian River in eighth grade and filled the second singles position for the next two seasons. He moved into the top spot last year and finished 9-5 overall. He was defeated by David Zabriskie of Watertown for the Frontier League first singles championship.
Torres Jara said his strengths are in his serve, his forehand and ball placement.
It takes skill to be able to hit the ball at the right place, at the right speed, Torres Jara said. You have to think where you want to place it, know where its going to go before you hit it.
Gorman says Torres Jara tends to play conservatively.
I would love to see him get a little more aggressive, but that really isnt his nature, Gorman said. Hes got really good ground strokes, his serve is good, but he doesnt like to come in to the net. If I could get him to improve in any way, it would be his net play.
Torres Jara will get a chance to play Charlebois again today at Indian River. When the two met earlier in the week, Torres Jara was playing with injuries to his left ankle and left thumb, which he suffered the day before during a club soccer game. He struggled mostly with pain in his thumb, while Charlebois repeatedly hit to his left side.
He hit it to my backhand a lot, Torres Jara said. Thats what messed me up the most.
Torres Jara said he expects to play much better this time, especially on his home court.
Soccer is Torres Jaras first love, and he hopes to play in college. He was named to the Times All-North first team for soccer last fall, finishing the season with 20 goals and 15 assists.
Torres Jara left Arequipa, Peru with his family when he was nine years old, and he still speaks fluent Spanish. He has returned for a visit just once and keeps in contact with family and friends there. His grandparents are currently visiting from Peru for the first time.
During a match Tuesday, Torres Jara and his opponent from Immaculate Heart Central kept score in Spanish. IHCs first singles player Manuel Vazques is an exchange student from Spain.
This is Torres Jaras last year competing for Indian River due to a military reassignment. His father, Todd Pouliot, will be stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C., later this year.
Gorman doesnt know what shell do without Torres Jara next season.
Well miss him very much, Gorman said. Not just because he wins matches but because hes a really nice kid a steady, very calming force on the team.
LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIPS SLATED
The Frontier League boys tennis tournament is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at Watertown High School.
The track and field championships are set for next week at Watertown High. The boys meet will be 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by the girls meet at 4 p.m. the next day.
Sportswriter Leslie Sheldon covers Frontier League sports for the Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org