McAlester News-Capital, McAlester, OK

April 25, 2014

Buffs’ Cortassa back on the courts

By Matt Goisman
Sports Writer

McALESTER — McAlester senior Dominic Cortassa has a bright future ahead. He’s already been accepted to the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he’ll major in microbiology.

Then he wants to go to medical school and become a doctor like many other members of his family. Maybe he’ll be a radiologist, or an emergency room physician.

With such a grand plan, it’s understandable why Cortassa left tennis as a junior to focus on academics.

Unfortunately, Cortassa just couldn’t stay away.

“When it started, I told my mom, ‘I made a mistake, I made a mistake, I made a mistake,’” Cortassa said Wednesday. “So I said I have to play this year.”

Though born in Tulsa, Cortassa grew up in McAlester. He went to Tannehill through the sixth grade, then transferred to Puterbaugh Middle School.

Cortassa started playing tennis competitively at Puterbaugh, but his first exposure to the sport came when he joined McAlester’s summer tennis camp as an 8-year-old. Ashley Duff, Cortassa’s cousin and a former Lady Buffalo, worked at the camp and convinced him to come.

“I was just like going through the motions,” Cortassa said of his first tennis camp. “I was a basketball player then, but I thought I might as well do it and see if I liked it.”

Cortassa started playing basketball at about the same time he started tennis, playing small forward for the Braves. He said that introduced him to future McAlester players like Zach Skimbo and Eli Boyle, which in turn made it easier when he came to Puterbaugh.

Though he stuck with basketball through junior high, by high school Cortassa said he wanted to focus on one sport. After having some success at the junior high level, he chose tennis.

“Dominic came out with some real promise, actually, in junior high,” Buffs coach Chad Waller said. “He was actually better than Chance (Sistrunk), (Kolten) Koonce; he beat them all and went to junior high State.”

Cortassa said his backhand always came more naturally to him, but the forehand took longer to develop. He played doubles in seventh grade, singles in eighth, then doubles throughout high school.

“It has made me learn to move my feet a whole lot more, and move up at the net and volley a whole lot more,” Cortassa said of playing doubles.

McAlester’s boys’ tennis teams have made the Class 5A state tournament all four years Cortassa’s been at MHS, but this is his first year breaking into the varsity. He plays two-doubles, and while the doubles lineups have changed this spring, current partner and fellow senior Kolten Koonce seems like he’ll be Cortassa’s partner for the rest of the season.

“We’re just seniors, and we want it more,” Cortassa said of Koonce. Their pairing also completes a circle, as in seventh grade, they were also doubles partners.

Cortassa and Koonce have already had some success together this season. They placed fourth at the McAlester Burn Out tournament April 18, giving top-seeded Claremore a battle before losing to them in the semifinals and then Durant in the third-place game.

“I’m hoping to win Regionals for (two-doubles) and the team, and be a solid team at State,” Cortassa said.

“It feels amazing when you win.”

To achieve his goal, Cortassa said the key will be “working as a team, mostly, and just not getting upset when we lose a game or miss a ball.” That’s a lesson he’s had to learn in his five years of competitive tennis, and one he said Waller really helped him with.

“He knows that we go to State every year, and he wanted to have a shot at it,” Waller said. “It worked out for him this year that he made the team, so he’s getting his shot.”

Cortassa said his favorite tennis player is Rafael Nadal, another lefty and the current No. 1 player in professional tennis.

When he’s not playing tennis, Cortassa plays drums and percussion for the Pride of McAlester marching band. He’s in the astronomy club, and he’s also part of both the youth group at St. Joseph’s Church in Krebs and Young Life, a nondenominational church group.

“We do games every once in awhile, and we have a topic that we talk about,” Cortassa said of Young Life. “And in the summer, there’s a camp that we go to.”

Cortassa also enjoys hunting, fishing and driving cars.

It’s been an up-and-down tennis career for Cortassa. He’s even missed time this season due to an undisclosed illness.

But Cortassa’s back on the courts now, and he’s ready for the final few weeks of his final season.

Contact Matt Goisman at mgoisman@mcalesternews.com.