Latrobe tennis working to get into playoff chase

| Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Make no mistake, the Latrobe girls tennis team is gunning for a berth in the WPIAL playoffs.

The Wildcats came into the week with a 3-4 record in Section 1-AAA and a handful of teams ahead of them in the standings, but first-year coach Michelle Uveges is hopeful her squad will be able to string together some victories and end up with a playoff spot when all is said and done.

“These girls have an incredible amount of talent,” Uveges said. “Their record is not indicative of the amount of talent they possess.”

Uveges has a number of young players filling key roles this season, and there have been times when that inexperience has shown itself on the court.

“They're still learning to deal with the nerves,” Uveges said. “They need to learn to get over past losses, be positive and keep moving forward.”

Sophomore Emily Steely is the Wildcats No. 1 singles player this season. Uveges has been working to develop patience in her game.

“In the past, she wanted to hit a winner on every shot,” Uveges said. “Her game has matured.

“Now she's learned how to make her opponent battle for every point.”

Freshman Tori Rutigliano had been playing from the No. 2 singles spot until she suffered a right foot injury earlier this season. She's out indefinitely, according to Uveges.

In Rutigliano's absence, senior Niki Kusy has been filling the No. 2 singles position for Latrobe. Entering play this week, Kusy had posted victories in two of her previous three singles matches.

“She really stepped up for me,” Uveges said of Kusy.

At the No. 3 singles position, Uveges has primarily been going with sophomore Caitlin Hennessey. She has a “perfect stroke,” according to her coach.

“She's improved so much from when I first got her,” Uveges said of Hennessey. “She's a fantastic singles player, and she's continuing to improve.”

Both Kusy and Hennessey have played doubles at times this season as well.

Latrobe's top doubles pairing is comprised of juniors Maddy Bucci and Bella Lane.

“They play dynamic together,” Uveges said of her No. 1 duo. “They play with a lot of energy, and they communicate very well on the court.”

Rounding out the Wildcats lineup are seniors Danielle Charbonneaux, Anna Graziano and Colleen Naeger and junior Abby Pratt.

“They're all good players,” Uveges said. “I rotate them in and out, and I don't have to worry about them.

“They make life easy for me as a coach.”

Uveges is confident that her girls are ready to be a factor in Section 1-AAA the rest of the way.

“Once they realize they're in the same league with some of these other teams, we'll get to where we need to be,” Uveges said. “(Making the playoffs) is our goal every season, and these girls have the potential to do it.”

Kevin Ritchart is a freelance writer.

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