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Hempfield girls tennis wins another section title

| Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013, 8:55 p.m.

The Hempfield girls tennis team's lineup card was noticeably different when the season began in August to when it ended on Oct. 9.

But what didn't change was coach Jerry Way's intent on leading his young squad to its third section title in four years. The latter came to fruition after the Spartans finished 13-1 in Section 1-AAA to lock up another banner for the school.

“Boy this season was great,” Way said. “I had girls come in and play at different spots in the lineup and play well and each of them had a hand in the overall team's success.”

Despite being unable to replicate its regular season success in the WPIAL tournament, Way said his underclassmen gained valuable experience and egos were held in check as roster spots were swapped across the board.

Hampton beat Hempfield, 4-1, in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA team tournament Oct. 9.

“Am I upset that we couldn't get a win in the WPIAL playoffs?,” Way thought. “No. Disappointed? I'd say yes to that because I know how hard and how well this group played all season.”

As the season closed, Way's roster was built with junior Madison DeBone — the third place finisher in the Section 1-AAA singles tournament — at first singles, freshmen Maura Sackett in the second spot and Annie Iezzi as the No. 3.

The tandems of sophomore Alaina DeGregory and junior Aubree Brown were the first doubles team with seniors Emily Bevington and Amanda Jepsen at second doubles

“During practice I saw some instances where I thought maybe a girl could move to play doubles with some of the experience they gained or move someone who had stepped it up into a singles role,” Way said. “Looking back, we can say it was a good decision, but a move like that isn't guaranteed.”

Certainly moving a freshman into a singles role while bumping a senior to a doubles role would create tension in the locker room, right? Not so

Way said the girls understood that the moves were done not as punishment or promotion. Rather they were done with the intent of doing what's best for the team.

“It was easy for me to make those changes because I knew it wouldn't cause any controversies between anyone,” he said. “Each girl that was in a new spot looked at it as ‘OK this is my job.' ”

While Way is not ready to set goals for next year, that natural progression should seem obvious.

“I hope they keep the same mentality that every match has to be played in that match and not to look ahead,” Way said. “After that, I hope the experience we've gained will help us put a dent in the WPIAL tournament.”

Brian Graham is a freelance writer.

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