Fox Chapel tennis team relying on its depth, experience
Fox Chapel tennis coach Alex Slezak hopes experience and depth produce a winning team this year.
“We have almost everybody returning from last year,” Slezak said. “When we have practice and stuff, they definitely set the tone and keep the intensity up.”
The most prominent players for the Foxes will be sophomores Lacey Cohen and Laurel Shymansky. Shymansky defeated Cohen to take the Section 3-AAA title last season, and they teamed to win the section doubles title.
“Really, I expect them to build on the successes they had last year,” Slezak said. “It's not about letting success go to their heads; it's about working hard every day.”
A quartet of seniors will add experience to the lineup.
Kelly Friday, Elsa Lagerquist, Kaitlyn Schaffer and Isabella Verardi played during last year's second-place 12-2, finish.
Verardi, along with then-senior Maddy Hoffman, reached the semifinals of the section doubles tournament and eventually finished fourth.
“They all played last year and contributed points,” Slezak said. “Now that they have some more experience, they are ready to shine this year.”
Emily Katz, another senior, is expected to see time in the starting lineup as well.
One thing Slezak knows: His lineup is not set. Those jobs are left up to performance at practice. It's not just the physical talent that makes this a difficult situation for Slezak.
“Tennis is such a complex game. There are so many ways to improve,” Slezak said. “More than anything, as they get older, they get that mental part of the game.”
Similarly, Springdale is returning a pair of high finishers from the postseason.
Seniors Margo Corsetti and Becca Kern return to a Dynamo lineup that finished third in Section 3-AA. Their impact is expected to be felt on the court, but it is already evident off of it.
The top-seeded pair won last season's section doubles title, while Corsetti finished third in the section singles tournament.
“They're both competitors, and they're team players,” coach Bob Ochsenhirt said. “It's the enthusiasm they have for helping the rest of the team. They don't just do things on the court. They do things out together.”
That leadership is impressive as Springdale's roster features a number of experienced seniors.
Emelia Conte and Shelby Paul will be battling for the third singles spot, though both most likely will see time there. The one who doesn't earn the spot will be paired with another senior, Emily Garrigan, for the first doubles team.
“Emelia is becoming more consistent with her shots. Her shots are crisper this year,” Ochsenhirt said. “Shelby is a good athlete. She can run down just about anything near her.”
Sophomore Kate Garrigan is a leading candidate for a spot on the second doubles team while locked in a battle with three others.
Seniors Elizabeth Gasparich, Marissa Rowe and sophomore Maria Lucas will all be battling for court time this year.
In Section 4-AA, Valley looks to remain a contender after finishing second a season ago.
Valley returns a trio of juniors who saw deep runs in the section doubles tournament last season.
Emily Armstrong teamed with then-senior Maria Pallone to finish runner-up, and Catherine Armstrong and Hannah Albright took third place.
“It has been fun to watch the three of them evolve into the players they are now,” coach Rachael Link said.
Dave Yohe is a freelance writer.