Share This Page

Local girls tennis teams get into swing of season

| Sunday, Aug. 19, 2012, 12:02 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Valley High School tennis coach Rachael Link instructs members of the girls tennis team during a practice at the New Kensington high school on Saturday, Aug. 18, 2012. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

When her team practiced for the first time this season, three words crossed Rachael Link's mind: “A new legacy.”

“That's become our theme for this season,” the Valley girls tennis coach said. “I embrace that.”

With the loss of standout seniors Courtney Brennan and Emily Robson, Link knows she has big shoes to fill this season.

One of the most decorated and successful players to come out of Valley, Brennan won the Section 4-AA individual title and teamed up with Robson to win section doubles, while also helping the team to third place in the WPIAL team playoffs.

More than anything, Brennan's leadership set her apart. She was like another coach.

That role isn't easy to find, but Link, whose team hosts Kiski Area on Monday in the season opener, has high hopes.

“Maria Pallone has beautifully transitioned into that leadership role,” Link said. “She's a naturally born leader. She leads by example.”

Pallone, who will play No. 1 singles, is the only returning senior to a team full of young potential: juniors Julia Westerman and Megan Hill and sophomores Emily Armstrong, Catherine Armstrong and Hannah Albright.

“There are endless things for me to teach them in a short amount of time,” Link said. “They're picking it up well.”

After spending the past two seasons in Class AA, the Knoch girls team moves back up to Class AAA.

Coach Ken Nieser sees his challenge compounded with the loss of five starters.

His only returning full-timers played No. 2 doubles: juniors Hannah Pfeiffer and Melissa Stearns.

Those two will be joined by the only returning senior, Sarah Kasunic, along with junior Patricia Tivaronas and sophomore Alice Gordon.

With the abundance of underclassmen, Nieser hopes to use this season as an experience-building effort.

“I just had a couple of days with them,” he said. “I think what I'm going to do is move them between singles and doubles.”

Burrell coach Jeri Tutolo's team is reminiscent of her squad two years ago.

“Right now I feel very hopeful,” she said. “I feel like this team may have more talent coming down the road (this year).”

Tutolo's team two years ago was supposed to have a down-year after losing almost every starter. They ended up chasing a Section 4-AA title to the final days of the season.

This year's team found itself in a similar spot, but the amount of talent available brightened Tutolo's outlook.

Jessica Linza and Emily Feroce are the only two returning seniors.

Both have embraced their new roles as leaders, but it is Linza who has stepped up in the offseason.

“Jessica has really helped pick it up. She's been running drills (this summer) and really stepped up,” Tutolo said. “She's a fighter. She's a little thing, but she hits the ball so hard.”

Joining Linza and Feroce in the battle for the top three singles spots is Burrell's basketball standout Jaila Manga.

“I'm thrilled,” Tutolo said. “(Manga) just picked up the game this year. She's an athlete. I have never seen that.”

Tutolo's final four doubles spots are up for grabs, but she sees three players making a strong push for cracking the lineup: juniors Natalie Artman and Zoe Zettner and sophomore Emma Hough.

“They're picking up their game,” Tutolo said. “Even the one who haven't played before are picking it up well.”

Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.