Bridgham looks to build off recent success for Pine-Richland
Unlike many successful tennis players, Pine-Richland's Marlys Bridgham did not begin playing tennis at an early age. The junior was going on 11 years old when he picked up a tennis racket, but she has continued to improve as she has grown.
“That summer my mom took me to a tennis clinic at Lakevue Athletic Club, and I worked with Krishnan Anandan,” Bridgham said. “He really helped me grow.”
It's been a while since that summer, but Bridgham has continued to grow. She has earned two WPIAL section titles, made it to the WPIAL tournament and by season's end may reach the top four in career wins at Pine-Richland.
“Marlys is an all-court player, and she works very hard,” Pine-Richland coach Janet Chappell said.
“She is very fit and that is what separates her from the rest of the team.”
Bridgham tried her hand at other sports like basketball and swimming, but tennis was just too much to step away from. She likes the mental aspect of the game, and although she said she is a team player, she likes a certain amount of competition from an individual standpoint.
Her best skill on the court, according to Marlys and her coach, is her defensive game.
“It definitely is my strength — my defense helps me a lot,” Bridgham said.
“I can dig out points and run down shots ... I do a lot of cross training so I can stay in shape.”
A good warm up always is part of her pre-game agenda.
“I try not to think too much about the opponent. I have to play the ball coming across the net, not the player,” she said. “I have to go out and play my game.”
The method has led to two section titles and some wins in USTA tournaments, something she said is a lot of fun when she is playing well.
Perhaps her best moment to date was a trip to the Easter Bowl in California. She said it was an awesome experience because she got to play with and against so many good players.
“It was an honor just to make it there,” she said.
Because she has some experience, Bridgham said she offers advice to the younger and less-experienced players on her Pine-Richland team. She added that the upperclassmen reaching out to her as a freshman made all the difference in her development.
“I looked up to the seniors ... they seemed so much older,” she said.
“I try to be a good leader and teammate. I hit with them, too.
“It's not just about tennis, though, it's hanging out as a team and welcoming them so they can relax.”
As for the future, Bridgham was not happy with how the WPIAL singles panned out for her, so her focus has shifted to doubles.
She plans to keep working so she can place better at WPIALs, make states and hopes to keep her string of section titles going.
Jerry Clark is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-779-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org.