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Numbers and expectations higher for Gateway girls tennis team

| Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Michael Love | The Times Express
Sophomore Aishwarya Raj reaches to return a volley during a practice on Aug. 12, 2013, on the courts at Gateway High School. Raj is one of several returning players who will try and help the Gators varsity girls tennis team make the WPIAL team playoffs out of Section 3-AAA.

Of the eight members on the Gateway varsity girls tennis team last year, only one was lost to graduation.

The other seven have returned with experience, and they were joined by 11 others on the first day of practice Aug. 12.

Gateway head coach Rochelle Seilhamer said she hopes the returning and new talent can combine to produce a strong season in 2013.

“Those type of numbers are nice to work with,” Seilhamer said.

Seilhamer said sophomore Sammy Memije begins the season as the clear-cut No. 1 singles player for the Gators.

Memije, who joins the team this year after choosing not to play for Gateway as a freshman, recently returned from San Diego, Calif., where she competed at the USTA Girls 16s National Championships.

Memije went 1-1, falling in straight sets to the No. 17 seed in the second round.

“She did a good job at nationals,” Seilhamer said.

“There are girls there from all over the country, and it's the best of the best.”

Memije was the lone winner for Gateway in a scrimmage Saturday against South Park.

Seilhamer said there were several close single and doubles matches in the scrimmage.

“Last year, we got killed by South Park,” she said.

“It's nice to see we are competing against them. The girls are improving, but at this point in the season, most of them are still pretty raw. Some of them didn't really play much this summer.”

Senior Kristen Ku and sophomore Aishwarya Raj, Seilhamer said, have been competing to see who will settle in at No. 2 and No. 3 singles.

Freshman Stephanie Katofsky played one of the singles matches on Saturday in place of Ku, and Seilhamer said she did pretty well for her first varsity match.

Seilhamer expects Katofsky to challenge for a spot on one of the two doubles teams.

Juniors Christie Doege and Rachel Marrow played a pro-set match (first to 10, win by two) against South Park at No. 2 doubles and lost a tough 11-9 decision.

Junior Bridget Jacob and senior Val Pascoe played together at No. 1 doubles. They lost the first set and fell in a tiebreaker in set two.

“It was Val's first match ever,” Seilhamer said.

“She's really showing a drive and determination.”

Seilhamer said those four, Katofsky and juniors Shawna Kroning and Kaylee Steimer are candidates for the doubles teams, which were still unsettled as this week began.

Steimer, Seilhamer said, also could factor into one of the singles spots as the season progresses.

This year, members of the girls volleyball team also will be able to play on the tennis squad, as matches for the two sports seldom overlap. Tennis matches are in the afternoon, with volleyball matches in the evening.

“I talked it over with (athletic director) Randy Rovesti, and he said there wasn't a conflict, so he gave us the go ahead,” Seilhamer said. “It's worked out nice.”

Volleyball players such as juniors Madeline Hall and Emily Perry are playing tennis this year and are hoping to make an impact.

Gateway finished 3-11 in Section 3-AAA last year.

Section powers Fox Chapel, Shady Side Academy and Shaler qualified for the WPIAL tournament, and Shady Side finished as the runner-up to Peters Township and qualified for states.

The Gators kick off their season Friday afternoon at 3:30 with a section match against Penn Hills at the tennis courts at Gateway High School.

Gateway hits the road Monday for a 3 p.m. section match against Shaler.

Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at mlove@tribweb.com.

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