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Norwin girls tennis team hopes playoffs are next step

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Aaron Loughner | For the Norwin Star
Norwin's Courtney O'Connell competes during the Section 1-AAA singles tournament on Sept. 13, 2012, at Franklin Regional High School.
Aaron Loughner | For the Norwin Star
Norwin's Alexa Holleran competes during the Section 1-AAA singles tournament on Sept. 13, 2012, at Franklin Regional High School.

The Norwin girls tennis team took a step forward last season, when the Knights finished with a winning record and contended for a playoff spot.

In 2013, the team is hoping to take a bigger step — toward the top tier of the section.

“We had a good, strong season last year, and I think it's going to continue to build this year,” coach Ryan Hornick said. “The girls are aware of that, too. They don't want to be in the middle of the pack. They want to be pushing for playoff and section championships.”

As the Knights look to advance to the postseason this season, they will rely on an experienced senior class that includes returning starters Alexa Holleran, Courtney O'Connell and Jamie Barca.

Hornick said Holleran would compete at No. 1 singles again after placing fourth at the Section 1-AAA singles tournament last season.

“I think she's kind of got a personal goal that she wants to qualify for the WPIAL (singles tournament),” Hornick said. “I know that she herself has put in significant work on improving different parts of her game to get to that point.”

Barca also will primarily compete at singles for Norwin.

“She's just one of those players that it doesn't matter who you are, she'll make you work to win,” Hornick said. “She'll hit shots back that you would not think she would get to, and she hits with some power at times, too. She'll keep you on your toes.”

While O'Connell played mostly singles last year, Hornick said the senior could play a mix of singles and doubles this season.

That versatility is shared by other Norwin players, as junior Carson Snyder and sophomore Mary Hankewycz also will see time at both singles and doubles this season.

“I think I'll have two sets of lineups: one where we'll want to have the singles as solid as we possibly can and one where we want to be balanced with singles and doubles,” Hornick said.

Other players expected to contribute at doubles include senior Emily Anderson and juniors Mackenna Bressler and Autumn Miller.

Hornick said he hopes to see improved doubles play this season.

“What I'm looking for is girls who have a good all-around game at this point that can fit into what I always like to see them do as far as doubles play,” he said. “At this point, it's, ‘Who can execute the game plan the best?' Those are the ones who are going to see significant playing time.”

Hornick said he expected Franklin Regional, Hempfield, Latrobe and Penn-Trafford to have strong teams this season. He hoped his team could battle with those four for one of the three playoff spots from the section.

“If we can win a couple of those key matches (and) start off the season on the right foot, I think that'll give (the team) some confidence to keep going in that direction,” he said.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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