Quaker Valley tennis out to defend WPIAL title
What was the biggest drawing factor for Christi Hays to take over coaching the Quaker Valley girls tennis program?
The family atmosphere.
“What I love about Quaker Valley is the tradition and legacy has been family based,” the first-year coach said. “Carolina Steliotes is playing this year and her sister was on the team. Last year, we had Sam Richman and both her sisters played on the team. It is a real family. That's what I love about Quaker Valley.”
Hays was a volunteer assistant with the Quakers last season on a team that tied Sewickley Academy for the Section 6-AA title before defeating the Panthers, 3-2, to capture the WPIAL Class AA championship. When coach Jeff Sebastian retired, Hays took over the top spot.
“She was like a coach and not just an assistant last season,” senior Isabella Hubsch said. “She was always there. The transition was easy.”
The team will have a new look as its top two singles players from 2012 — Spencer Caravaggio and Richman — graduated, but QV still has a varsity team held together by six senior players in Clara Murray, Emma McCormish, Lydia Sopp, Emily Veeck, Hubsch and Steliotes.
“Last year, the team was star driven,” Hays said. “This year, it will be more of an ensemble. We are very deep and don't drop off.”
Taking over first singles will be Farrah Bojalad. The sophomore was the Quakers' No. 3 player in 2012. Bojalad fine-tuned her game during the summer at the Chris Evert camp in Florida.
“She started playing the sport at a young age,” Hays said. “She has also played a bit of tennis outside of the high school realm. She has been exposed to a high level of competition.”
Another sophomore, Emily Kraus, will make the jump to varsity play this season. The rest of the 16 girls will compete at the junior varsity level.
While Hays didn't have a final decision on the other two singles spots or doubles players, she said her team will feel no ill will over who will get the singles positions.
“After we reached states last year, the team knows every line is important,” Hayes said. “Of course everyone wants to play singles because that is the premier position. But I think they realized a lot of times matches come down to doubles.
“Playing doubles is an art. Being good at it is not as easy as people think.”
While the team is going through some rebuilding and a coaching change, the Quakers still are setting their sights high. If things turn out as planned, they hope to be celebrating their seventh WPIAL Class AA team title since 2004 by the end of the season.
“We are looking forward to a great season,” Veecks said. “We are looking forward to working as a team to reach WPIALs and further.”
Steliotes added: “I know for the seniors, we really want to have a good final year. We are all really close. We want to help each other have the best season possible.”