Tennis sisters share love of game through coaching at Gateway, Plum
Mother Nature didn't allow the Plum and Gateway girls tennis teams to complete their Section 3-AAA match on Monday.
Three of the five matches got in before rain, thunder and lightning pummeled Plum High School.
The Gators hold a 2-1 advantage in matches completed, and the match will finish when the two teams meet again at Gateway later this month.
Monday's match also was a family reunion of sorts, as veteran Gateway head coach Rochelle Seilhamer matched up for the first time in a high-school setting with her sister, Rosemarie Stashko, the first-year head coach of the Mustangs.
“We didn't do much with the lineups,” Seilhamer said. “We put the usual lineups out there.”
Both Seilhamer and Stashko said being on opposite sides of the court twice a season is no big deal and is kind of fun.
“One of us will probably tease the other after the matches,” Seilhamer said with a laugh.
In the offseason, Seilhamer needed an assistant coach at Gateway, and she looked to Stashko to fill that void.
But things went in a different direction when former Plum girls head coach Lori Senkewitz stepped down over the summer.
“When the Plum job came open, I told her to go for it,” Seilhamer said.
“I knew it would be more rewarding for her. She's doing a very good job.”
“(Rochelle) really encouraged me,” Stashko said.
“She's always been encouraging when it's come to tennis. I decided I wanted to be at Plum and wanted the challenge of bringing them to the best they can be this year. I think we are well on our way to that.”
Plum entered this week 2-5 in Section 3 play with wins over Penn Hills and McKeesport. Gateway began the week 2-4 in section, and that included victories over Penn Hills and McKeesport and a close 3-2 loss to Woodland Hills.
“To me, it's really interesting,” Stashko said.
“From reading scores and results, I knew kind of where we could win and where Gateway is strong. Both teams are full of great girls and good players. It's always fun when Plum and Gateway play.”
The sisters grew up in McKeesport, and both graduated from McKeesport High School.
Seilhamer graduated in 1971, and at the time, Mc- Keesport, like a lot of other schools, didn't offer girls tennis as a varsity sport.
She didn't get going with tennis until she was 19.
“I had a friend in my neighborhood that said they put in new courts down at Renzie Park,” Seilhamer said. “I went down there, and I've been playing ever since. I got my parents involved and got my sister involved. It just took off. We've both loved the game for years.”
Stashko starting playing while in elementary school and was a strong player by the time she entered high school.
She ascended to the No. 1 singles position at Mc- Keesport and captured four straight section titles. The run with the Tigers girls tennis team included a couple of trips to the state tournament.
“Rochelle was great in getting me started in tennis,” Stashko said.
“We would spend hours down at Renzie Park. We played a lot of tennis there.”
Stashko said she wishes she had played tennis beyond high school.
“I had a few (college) offers,” she said.
Today, the sisters don't play a lot of tennis against each other, but they still like to play the game. They also enjoy teaching the sport to young players.
“We make a pretty good doubles team,” Seilhamer said.
“We will practice against each other, but that is about it (for one-on-one tennis). We prefer to play doubles together.”
They both had hopes of seeing their players fare well when the Section 3 singles tournament started Wednesday at Fox Chapel High School.
Sophomores Sammy Memije and Aishwarya Raj were slated to enter the tournament for Gateway, while senior Brittany Sembower and junior Ashley Alpino were set to represent Plum.
Wednesday's matches were to be played past the deadline for this week's edition. The tournament is set to conclude Thursday.
Michael Love is a staff writer with Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5825 or at email@example.com.