Franklin Regional girls tennis looks for section repeat
The Franklin Regional girls tennis team had a banner season in 2012, winning every single section championship possible and advancing to the WPIAL quarterfinals.
To match that feat this season, the Panthers will need to overcome the graduation of key players, as well as some preseason injury troubles.
Franklin Regional will kick off its Section 1-AAA title defense with a home match at 3:30 p.m. Friday against Norwin. The Panthers finished 14-0 in section play a season ago, and Franklin Regional players also won the section singles and doubles championships.
“It's a very high standard (to follow),” Franklin Regional coach Howard Fisher said. “It's one that's going to be difficult to actually do the same this year. It's tough to predict where we'll be at the end of this season, but certainly we will strive to equal what we did last year.”
The Panthers will need to overcome the loss of several seniors, including No. 2 singles player Lauren Bailey, who teamed with Natalia Perry to win the section doubles championship last year.
“I think it's the experience factor (you lose) – being on the team four years, knowing the program and knowing the expectations of the coaching staff,” Fisher said. “I think that's really what seniors bring to the table.”
While the graduation of Bailey will hurt, Perry will return for her sophomore season after winning the section singles championship in 2012. She later finished third at the WPIAL singles tournament.
“She might win WPIALs (this season),” Fisher said. “ ... She's working with some of the top players in the area, and of course her mom is a tennis professional as well.”
Fellow sophomore Jenna Bailey, who played No. 3 singles last year, will likely play doubles this season after suffering a knee injury over the summer.
Fisher said while Bailey's injury is significant enough to warrant keeping her out of singles play, he hopes it won't keep her out of the lineup.
“The injury just happened in June, so it's still fresh,” Fisher said. “She does have a knee brace, and she is running. She obviously is hitting very well. Her serving is very well. She would be probably underneath Natalia if she were healthy.”
Because of the injuries and graduated seniors, a number of players are competing to fill the vacant singles and doubles slots.
Fisher said sophomores Kurlya Yan and Madeline Yu competed well in challenge matches during the first week of practice, and he was hoping they could fill the No. 2 and 3 singles openings.
Meanwhile, a large senior class is also competing for those slots. The senior class includes Mia Baker, Annie Bonfiglio, Madisson Jakiela, Hayley Lee, Manal Piracha, Emily Rellick, Sana Seth, Brittany Weiner and Victoria Zhang.
Lee, Piracha, Seth and Zhang all gained experience with last season's team, while Baker, Jakiela, Rellick and Weiner are moving up from junior varsity. Bonfiglio didn't compete with the team last season but played in prior seasons.
“I'm probably going to have a larger varsity squad this year because of the large senior group,” Fisher said. But I also obviously want to give those four sophomores opportunities as well to play into the lineup.”
Franklin Regional was scheduled to play scrimmages against Indiana and Plum on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, before Friday's match against Norwin. Fisher hoped to have a better idea of his final lineup after those matches.
“In the best scenario, we should have a very talented team,” he said. “I don't know that it will be equal to what we had last year, but it should be an above-average team.”