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Tennis

Valley tennis team motto no joke for opposition

Doug Gulasy
| Sunday, Sept. 7, 2014, 9:27 p.m.
Valley's Hannah Albright returns a shot during a match against Derry on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, at Valley High School.
Jason Bridge | Trib Total Media
Valley's Hannah Albright returns a shot during a match against Derry on Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, at Valley High School.

During preseason conditioning workouts this summer, the Valley girls tennis team joked about a potential team motto for the 2014 season.

While talking about the movie “We're the Millers,” in which a character has a tattoo that reads “No Ragrets,” the players said they should make establish the misspelled moniker as their own slogan.

“We were joking about that when we were running laps during preseason,” senior Catherine Armstrong said. “Our coach thought we were actually being serious.”

It turns out the slogan makes sense for the Vikings. Led by a senior-heavy lineup, Valley (7-0, 5-0) leads Section 3-AA, and is aiming to win its first section championship since 2011.

“(Winning the section) is really important for us,” senior Hannah Albright said. “I know for myself, I want it. This is my last year. This is my chance. This is my last shot, and I want to go for it.”

Valley qualified for the WPIAL Class AA playoffs each of the past two seasons, but the Vikings finished second in the section behind Indiana.

That drove the players as they prepared for the 2014 campaign, senior Emily Armstrong said.

“It was hanging over all of our heads,” she said. “We knew this is what we wanted because last year we finished second and it wasn't good enough for us. This year, it's definitely our goal to be first in our section as a team. We have some goals set this year, and I hope to achieve them.”

Seniors fill six of the seven spots in Valley's starting lineup this season. Emily Armstrong, a four-year starter, leads the way at No. 1 singles, followed by twin sister and fellow four-year starter Catherine Armstrong at No. 2 singles. Albright plays No. 3 singles.

At No. 1 doubles, seniors Amanda Carson and Anna Alfera are teamed up, while senior Emily Meanor pairs with sophomore Gianna Regoli at No. 2 doubles.

“The senior leadership is really what has made this a successful season so far, and our growth in a short amount of time,” Valley coach Rachael Link said.

Emily and Catherine Armstrong formed one of the doubles teams when Valley last won a section title. Most of the Vikings' starters graduated after that season, leading the remaining players to recruit newcomers to the team.

“For the last two years, we've been teaching them everything we possibly could teach them,” Catherine Armstrong said. “We want them to be just as good, if not even better. They're showing all their skill. We couldn't be prouder of them.”

Valley showed its improvement in a 3-2 victory over Indiana late last month. The Vikings hadn't defeated the Indians since 2011.

The match came down to No. 1 doubles, as Carson and Alfera defeated Indiana's team in a third-set tiebreaker.

“Two years in a row we've come in second place to them, so to finally get first, it was honestly probably the best thing ever,” Albright said. “It felt great. We were so excited.”

The win over Indiana could prove especially large in the race for the section. Preseason realignment added more teams to Section 3, meaning section opponents will meet just once this season instead of twice as in previous years.

“Our philosophy walking into matches is no regrets on the court because you can't say we'll get a chance to go at that team again,” Link said. “Without that option, it made us focus even more on making the most of every single match.”

Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at dgulasy@tribweb.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.

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