Goldberg Reaches 50th Year as KP Girls Tennis Coach 18 Hockomock Titles Won in 5 Decades
Bob Goldberg says he “still bleeds KP green and gold.’’
By Ken Hamwey
Staff Sports Writer
Bob Goldberg is in his 50th year as coach of the King Philip girls tennis team.
Some would think that’s unique; others might say it’s rare that one would coach a specific team for such a long period at the same school.
Before this season got underway, the 80-year-old Goldberg, who played tennis in high school and at the University of Maine, had 758 career victories and guided the Warriors to 43 tourney appearances in 49 years. His KP squads have won 18 Hockomock League championships and that includes the last four (Kelley-Rex Division titles).
A native of Portland, Maine, Goldberg isn’t entertaining any thoughts of retiring.
“I love coaching tennis,’’ he said, “and I’ve had good kids whose eyes light up when they’re on a court. The longer I’m at KP, the more I bleed green and gold.’’
For whatever reasons, coaches sometimes change their venues. Maybe it’s moving on to greener pastures because the cupboard is bare, or perhaps it involves coaching a larger program, possibly for more money. Or maybe one’s loyalty has waned.
“I’ve been loyal to KP but I don’t expect anything special,’’ Goldberg said. “It’s all about the girls, not me.’’
During Goldberg’s five decades, there’s been some interesting occurrences. He can recall three.
“I’ve had two mother-daughter coaching experiences,’’ Goldberg noted. “Most recently, I coached Becca Ricci (2014-2017) and earlier I coached her mom. In the mid-1990s, I coached Christine Holmes and I also coached her mother (Pam Parks).’’
Goldberg says that coaching moms and then their daughters later signals two things. “It shows I’ve been around a long time and that the daughters are a product of their environment,’’ he noted. “Their moms are passionate about tennis and they’re encouraging their daughters to play it.’’
Another situation has come to fruition this season. It involves Stoughton’s new girls coach — Patty Bangs.
“She played for Stoughton and competed against my team (in the mid-1980s),’’ Goldberg recalled. “Now, I’ll be seeing her again, this time as an opposing coach.’’
And lastly, Goldberg, who coached the Dean College women for nine years in the fall season, had an alumna of North Attleboro on his roster. Unable to recall her name, Goldberg says: “She played against my KP teams and then she played for me at Dean. She was very capable at the high school level and she started for me at Dean. It’s kind of an interesting twist.’’
A history teacher for 39 years at the KP Middle School, Goldberg has endured some difficult moments and also some humorous times as a tennis coach.
“The toughest thing is when a coach has to call 911 because of an injury,’’ he emphasized. “One KP girl suffered a broken leg and was treated at a hospital. And, I’ve seen girls sustain concussions. One player from Oliver Ames faced us. She fell and hit the back of her head but continued to play. Then, she collapsed and that’s when 911 got involved.’’
A light moment for Goldberg occurred against Mansfield. A second singles match involved a nine-point tie-breaker. Because the doubles and the other singles matches left the teams tied at 2-2, whichever team won second singles would win the match outright. The tie-breaker started at 4-2 in favor of Mansfield and their coach said: “Looks like we’ve got it.’’
Not so fast.
KP rallied for the next two points, making it 4-4. That’s when the clash went from daring to conservative.
“After a lengthy struggle where neither girl took any risks, the Mansfield player hit a mid-range shot that hit the tape, the ball spun and rolled about 10 inches on top of the net,’’ Goldberg recalled. “It finally fell on the Mansfield side and we were victorious.’’
Last year’s team knew what winning felt like, posting a 14-0 record and claiming the Kelly-Rex title. More of the same could be on tap for the current squad.
“Our goals this year are to win a fifth straight division crown, qualify for the tourney and to improve every day.’’ Goldberg noted. “Achieving these objectives is very realistic because our first and second singles players went undefeated last year at first doubles. We’ve got experience at third singles and first doubles features one of our co-captains.’’
Junior Ahunna James competes at first singles and sophomore Shea Mellman is at second singles.
“Ahunna’s all-around game is exceptional,’’ said Goldberg. “She can serve, volley, and hit effective ground strokes. Her tennis IQ is high and her instincts are very good. Shea’s serve is hard, she’s knowledgeable and her all-around game is smooth and consistent. Her ground strokes, serve and volleys are also consistent.’’
Senior co-captain Sammie Taylor posted a 9-5 record last year at third singles. “Sammie handles all aspects of the game correctly,’’ Goldberg said. “If she keeps playing the way she practices, she’ll do very well. Her best shots are an inside-out forehand and an inside-out backhand.’’
KP’s other captain, Resha Ajoy, is playing in the first doubles slot. “She’s a great listener and very coachable,’’ Goldberg said. “Aggressive on the court, she’s a quality leader who has a consistent overall game and very good court awareness.’’ Her doubles partner is junior Lauren Casper. “Lauren is the best pure athlete on the team,’’ Goldberg said. “She’s coachable, aggressive and able to execute various strokes.’’
Juniors handling the chores at second doubles are Caroline Freese, Carlie Burns and Priya Riar and senior Palina Yakimovich. “All four are similar type players,’’ Goldberg said. “They’re in an intermediate stage of their game and still learning.’’
Fifty years is a long time and what has eluded Goldberg during that stretch is a state championship. That certainly would surpass his top thrill, which is a 61-game regular-season winning streak. That occurred from 2007 to 2011.
“That was a terrific achievement,’’ Goldberg noted. “North Attleboro stopped the streak but we played without our regulars at second and third singles because of injuries.’’
At Local Town Pages deadline the Warriors had a 3-2 record. Those triumphs now give the personable coach 761 for his career. Whatever happens in tournament action remains to be seen and probably won’t reveal any hints on Bob Goldberg’s future.
“I go year to year on my decision to coach,’’ he said. “Right now, I have no desire to retire but I’ll know when the time is right to step down.’’
When that moment arrives, it’ll be the end of an era for KP girls tennis.
A glorious era.