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Norwin girls tennis team 'hungry for more' in 2014

| Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Doug Gulasy | Trib Total Media
Norwin's Mary Hankewycz warms up before a match against Franklin Regional on Aug. 23, 2013, at Franklin Regional High School.

When Norwin girls tennis coach Ryan Hornick reviewed some old district yearbooks over the summer, he realized how significant his team's achievements from the past two seasons were.

“I think (the players have) seen a reasonable amount of steady success the last two seasons,” Hornick said. “We had winning records the last two years, which (after) looking back into Norwin yearbooks, it's been a while since that happened. The girls are excited about that, and they take a lot of personal pride and team pride in what they've accomplished so far.”

Nonetheless, the Knights enter the 2014 season, in Hornick's words, “hungry for more.”

Despite Norwin's success over the past two seasons, the team didn't qualify for the playoffs in either year. The Knights are making that their primary goal in 2014.

“I know how hard these girls have worked, (and) I know the amount of experience they have on their side,” Hornick said. “I think it's very reasonable to have the goal of reaching the playoffs in mind — and not only that, but to see team success as far as winning the section championship and individual success as well in those tournaments.”

Hornick said the team worked hard this summer to prepare itself for the season. Norwin held a month-long tennis camp for the first time featuring players from the high school level all the way down to elementary school.

“This year, we've been trying really hard to get to the next level by doing the month-long camp we did this year, plus practice,” senior Autumn Miller said. “We're really going to try to step up our game this year.”

Starters Alexa Holleran, Courtney O'Connell and Jamie Barca graduated for Norwin, but the Knights return an experienced senior class of five players.

Miller will play singles for Norwin, while seniors Natalie Boczar, Mackenna Bressler, Rebecca Giles and Carson Snyder could see time at singles or doubles. Juniors Mary Hankewycz and Julia Szlis could also play singles or doubles for the Knights.

“All of our starters are pretty evenly matched,” Miller said. “We have a pretty strong team this year, so I'm excited.”

Newcomer Maria Santilli, a freshman, will play No. 1 singles for Norwin. Santilli competes in statewide, regional and national tournaments through the United States Tennis Association, and Hornick expects her to have a major impact in her freshman season.

“She's a very talented player already, but it's going to be exciting to see what she can accomplish throughout this tennis season,” Hornick said.

Norwin will compete in Section 1-AAA with Connellsville, Franklin Regional, Gateway, Hempfield, Kiski, Latrobe, Penn-Trafford and Plum. Unlike past years, Norwin will play section opponents once instead of twice, and four teams will make the playoffs instead of three.

“It's going to be hard, but I feel like some of the teams are going to be good competition,” Miller said.

Norwin began the season with a 5-0 win over Derry on Monday before hosting West Mifflin on Wednesday, past the deadline for this week's edition. The Knights will travel to McKeesport on Friday before opening section play at Connellsville on Monday.

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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