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Falcons tennis team looking to learn on the fly

| Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014, 9:24 p.m.
Jason Black | Daily Courier
Sophomores Gretchen Beatty (left) and Morgan Berger work on their hitting technique during an indoor practice session on Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014 at Connellsville High School.

The Connellsville girls tennis team is much a work in progress, especially considering the team lost all seven of its regular starters from last year's team.

With so much uncertainty, it is admittedly difficult for coach William Ricks to determine how this season may go.

“I'd say it's 50-50,” Ricks said. “I really don't know.”

What Ricks does know is that last year's top seven — Kasey McIntosh, Justine Waggel, Nicole Carnes, Rachel Shepler, Rachel Oplinger, Alexandra Berger and Haley Lowry — are gone but the Falcons seem to have an up-and-coming group of young players who may step into starting roles sooner rather than later.

Sophomores Morgan Berger, Gretchen Beatty, Shaye Traynor and Hannah Lowry have a good chance of entering the season as starters, although much will be decided based on how the team performs during a scrimmage against Brownsville on Saturday.

Seniors Jerrica Medvec and Krista Ritenour are also strong candidates to start, while freshman Leah McIntosh has also shown some ability in the early practices leading into the season.

“I just have to take them out and see how they move around and how they hit,” Ricks said. “I want to see who has been working (in the offseason) and who has improved. And for the new ones coming out, I want to see if they can catch on and learn this game.”

Gaining a deeper knowledge of the game will be critical for a team with limited varsity experience, but so will a willingness to improve through practice. The Falcons went 3-13 overall and 2-12 in Section 1-AAA last season.

“Obviously we have to work hard,” Beatty said. “We definitely have to practice hard to keep up good work because practice makes perfect.”

Beatty was one of a handful of players who competed extensively throughout the summer as part of the Connellsville recreation board's summer sports program.

Ricks said due to the short season, only so much can be done in terms of improvement during the scheduled matches. That's why he feels offseason work is critical in a player's development.

“The season is over in two months,” Ricks said. “So we want to see how much they are willing to learn and who can learn the fastest. Hopefully we will have a better season than we did last year.”

Connellsville will open the season Monday with an exhibition match at Southmoreland.

Jason Black is the Local Sports Editor of the Daily Courier. He can be reached at jblack@tribweb.com.

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