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Hampton girls tennis solid at singles but looking for continuity at doubles

| Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, 11:00 p.m.

For Hampton tennis, the dynamic has changed, but the goal remains the same.

Last year, all three singles players were underclassmen. The seniors filled out the doubles contingent. This year, it's different.

“We're learning the game at doubles,” said coach Grant McKinney, whose team has won one doubles match so far this year. “That's where we are right now. And we're relying on the attitude of our leaders.”

The two senior captains, Abby Miller and Sydney Leppert, compete in singles at the No. 1 and 3 spots, respectively, and junior Grace Kang resumes her position at the No. 2 spot.

“They give us some continuity at the singles spots,” McKinney said. “It's nice because you go into the match knowing what to expect.”

Miller, in her second year in such a role, relishes the chance to take on every opponent's No. 1 player. While she is hoping to secure her first WPIAL tournament berth, the section didn't get any easier.

Pine-Richland added a nationally ranked player from Texas, and Butler and Mars added tournament-level freshman players, by McKinney's estimation.

“I think expectations for herself would be to be competitive in every singles match that she plays,” McKinney said. “I think she really welcomes the challenge of playing the best person on the opposing team. It's hard challenge to step up to, but I think she takes it with a really good attitude.”

After matching up Kang and Leppert, McKinney kept them in the same spots as last year. But the competition is close.

“They are competitive, and I think they really would like to beat the person above them because they want to push each other,” McKinney said.

One thing that could need a push is the doubles tandems. After graduating a group of experienced seniors, McKinney has been trying to stabilize the doubles pairings. The Talbots were 3-5 through last week.

Junior Lehka Pendyala didn't start last year, but she has varsity experience.

“She put in a lot of work in the offseason,” McKinney said. “She really helps at the first doubles spot and is becoming a good doubles player.”

Pendyala pairs with first-year varsity player Rachel Weber, a junior. The second doubles spot is fluid right now, with juniors Rachel Carmen, Rachel McGinley and Anna DeMatteo seeing time, along with sophomore Ella Hilton.

“I think the attitude and work ethic of the team is trending upward,” said McKinney.

Devon Moore is a freelance writer.

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