Connellsville girls tennis will rely on returning letterwinners
In terms of wins and losses, Connellsville girls tennis coach William Ricks doesn't have a lot to build upon. But what Ricks does have is a group of dedicated players who have committed themselves to improving each time they step on the court.
“They are enthusiastic about coming back,” said Ricks, entering his sixth season. “The girls have been here before, and I'm looking for them to step up.”
The Falcons finished 2-12 last year, and the competition in Section 1-AAA won't be easy. However, Connellsville is entering the 2013 season with a wealth of experience. Eleven seniors dot the roster, and five of those are returning letterwinners.
Seniors Kasey McIntosh, Justine Waggel and Nicole Carnes are three of those letterwinners, and in the early part of the season, Ricks has penciled them in to play at first through third singles, respectively.
Seniors Haley Lowry and Hailey Shannon are also letterwinners and could play a key role. Seniors Rachel Oplinger and Rachel Shepler are getting the early look at first doubles, while seniors Alex Burger and Lowry are a preliminary doubles unit.
Ricks also has a number of underclassmen, which should serve the program well in the future. Those underclassmen likely will be using this season as a learning experience.
“I want them to hang in there because they'll have a better chance of starting next year,” Ricks said.
As for this year, Ricks will be depending on his experienced players to lead the way, which will allow him to work more closely with the team's younger members.
Ricks said although he does have a preliminary plan in terms of a lineup leading into the section portion of the schedule, there could be a few adjustments.
“They are all pretty much on equal terms, so we just have to see who will be more aggressive and chase balls down,” Ricks said.
Ricks is hoping last year's tough season will serve to motivate the girls this year.
“They should be tired of losing,” Ricks said. “They just have to go out and execute and do what they have to do. I can't do it for them. They should be more self-confident this year.”
Waggel, who will be one of the starters, is displaying that confidence.
“I think we are capable of achieving a winning season,” Waggel said. “If we stay calm and play our best, we are capable of winning.”
Connellsville will host an exhibition match Thursday against Mt. Pleasant.
Jason Black is the local sports editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at email@example.com.