Hempfield girls tennis team rounding back into contending form
After being the Section 1-AAA champions in back-to-back years, the Hempfield girls tennis players found themselves in unfamiliar territory last season when they finished third overall.
However, the Spartans seem to be on the path to another section title with a young and deep lineup this season.
Hempfield is off to a fast start in section play, going 7-1 with the only loss to Penn-Trafford, 3-2, on Sept. 6. The loss came after a big 3-2 win over Franklin Regional, the defending section champion.
Even though Hempfield has started strong, coach Jerry Way understands that returning to the top won't come easy.
“It's going to be hard with Penn-Trafford and Franklin Regional in our section,” Way said. “We lost to Penn-Trafford, and we beat Franklin Regional. Being section champions is in our hands; we have to face them both in late September.”
The Spartans are led at first singles by Madison DeBone, who finished third at the Section 1-AAA tournament by defeating Norwin's Alexa Holleran, 6-2, 6-4, last week, and qualified for the WPIAL tournament.
But after DeBone, Way has new starters in the rest of the lineup. Second singles is occupied by freshman Maura Sackett, while sophomore Alaina DeGregory, who was on the second doubles team last season, plays third singles.
The first doubles team includes senior Emily Bevington and freshman Annie Iezzi. The second doubles has senior Amanda Jepsen and junior Aubree Brown.
“They need to just play tennis and focus on what they need to do. They definitely have the ability and talent to win,” Way said. “They just have to put it together in the second half of the year and play the way they can play.”
Bevington and Jepsen are co-captains for the Spartans on what is considered a young team. But the older girls have been able to tell the younger girls to stay calm and not to put a lot of pressure on themselves.
“This year is a younger team. Maddie has more experience and handles being the No. 1 singles better,” Way said. “The younger girls have enough tennis experience; they can handle it better than any other girls. I feel good about the talent level. They are not out there to clown around; they are out there to win the match.
“The next year or two, I think, I will have a nice team with this younger core and hopefully they will grow as a team for one or two years. They are out there to play.”
Andrew John is a freelance writer.