DuBOIS — As the 2018 girls tennis season opens this week, all eyes at the local level will largely be focused in the St. Marys Area when comes to the Class AA teams, while DuBois Area looks to reload with several of its top players back to make another run against District 6 when postseason time rolls around.
All three of the District 9 Class AA titles resided in the City of St. Marys last fall.
St. Marys Area freshman Samatha Hayes taking home the singles crown, while she and her Lady Dutch teammates bested cross-town rival Elk County Catholic for the team title. The Lady Crusaders won a piece of the pie when the duo of Emily Miller and Jenna Minard won the doubles crown.
Hayes is back along with a host of young talent on the Lady Dutch roster. Elk County also welcomes back several experienced players despite Miller and Minard being part of the five-member senior class lost to graduation following last season.
DuBois also lost an experienced group to graduation, but as always seems to be the case, the Lady Beaver return a handful of seasoned players with a few more waiting in the wings to capitalize on their opportunity to become starters.
Johnsonburg also enters the season with a veteran squad, as eight of its nine players were on the team a year ago. Brockway finds itself on the opposite end of the spectrum, with only two returning players from 2017.
Here is a closer looks at the teams in the Tri-County Area:
The terms young, inexperienced and new-look perfectky describe the Brockway tennis team this season, as head coach lost five of the seven players who were on his roster a year ago.
The quartet of Savannah Buttery, Kira Fry, Taylor Raybuck, Haley Rummel all graduated, while current senior gabby Sabatose transferred to DuBois Central Catholic after the tennis season ended last year.
Those losses might cripple the Brockway program some years, but head coach John Hawkins has seen an influx of new players that will allow for a full team to be fielded.
Brockway will have no seniors and just one junior in newcomer Kasie Leach. Hawkins will have five sophomores to work with — a group led by returning letterwinners Morgan Pirow and Mackenzie Hook.
That duo is joined by sophomore newcomers Lily Henry, Emily Roush and Megan Smiley, along with incoming freshmen Selena Buttery, Margo Lindenmuth, Hannah Zuccolotto.
As you can see from our grades, we are a very young team,” said Hawkins. “Even though we are young, I am seeing great leadership roles being filled by our two returning letterwinners Morgan Pirow and Mackenzie Hook. It is great to have them back. Both girls work extremely hard and have great attitudes.
“Throughout the summer we had open courts for the ladies to come down and play. It was wonderful to see every girl there that was on our roster.
“I have extremely high hopes for all the girls, and great progress has been made by Lily Henry and Megan Smiley, who were regular competitors over the summer. Selena Buttery has a tenacity that I have not seen in a girl in a long time. It is going to be fun to watch her matches.
“Hannah, Kasie, Emily, and Margo are progressing nicely as players as well. For most of them picking up a racket only happened recently. The strides they have made in a couple of weeks gives me great hope for the future of our program. Our team has a new look this year compared to previous years and I am very excited to start on this new journey.”
Brockway opens its season Monday at Punxsutawney before hosting Elk County Catholic on Tuesday.
Junior: Kasie Leach. Sophomores: Lily Henry, Mackenzie Hook, Morgan Pirow, Emily Roush, Megan Smiley. Freshmen: Selena Buttery, Margo Lindenmuth, Hannah Zuccolotto.
Given the luxury of always having a large roster, Lady Beavers coach Jenna Kirk has always done her best to work in as many players as possible during the season — particualrly in doubles matches. And, that approach always affords her the blessing of having returning players with some type of varsity experience.
The 2018 season will be no different despite Kirk losing an eight-member senior class that all saw ample playing time during their careers. Among that group lost are the likes of Alexa Alker, Haley McAninch, Gabby Henricks and Kaycee Vanchure.
But, Kirk welcomes back three of her top players from a year ago in seniors Alexis Strouse, Alexa Zartman and Alaina Heberling. Strouse and Zartman split time between the No. 1 and 2 spots in singles action last year, while Heberling also was a regular competitor in singles play.
Also back are junior Lauren Milletics and Alex Volpe, who their share of doubles action a year ago. The only other upperclassmen on the roster are senior Jenna Coffey and junior Jaelin Decker. A vast majority of the 21-player squad is comprised of 11 sophomores and four freshmen.
“It’s still early in the seeding (process), but we have three of our starters from last season returning in Strouse, Zartman, and Heberling,” said Kirk. “We also lost quite a few players that were in the top spots to graduation, but I’m excited to see who steps up and fills those positions. Volpe, Milletics and (sophomore Rachel) Kister have so much potential, and I think they have what it takes to make that transition from doubles to singles players this year.
“Our sophomore class is so large and the girls in that class are so close. That group worked so hard over the summer, and it’s amazing to see how far they have come since the beginning of last season. We also have a good group of freshman joining us. Grace Askey) and Jessie (Askey) have already been playing for years at the lake and taking lessons. We can already see that they are dedicated to this sport, and we know they are going to go far.”
Being the lone Class AAA school in District 9, DuBois will once again be paired up with District 6 this year when it comes to the postseason tournament. While Kirk knows competing against D-6 is poses a stiff challenge, it’s one she and her players are prepared for.
“It’s a tough district, but our top three girls have so much experience against that level, and they are already preparing for the district tournament,” said Kirk. “We see Altoona, Hollidaysburg and Central Mountain during the regular season, so those matches will give us a good idea of the opponents we will see in the postseason.
“We are all excited to start another tennis season with this fun group of girls and can’t wait to see what they can accomplish this year.”
DuBois opens its season Monday at Elk County Catholic.
Seniors: Alexis Strouse, Alexa Zartman, Alaina Heberling, Jenna Coffey. Juniors: Lauren Milletics, Jaelin Decker, Alex Volpe. Sophomores: Lydia Dixon, Maryclaire Maliza, Kylee Snyder, Kaylee George, Olivia Reed, Rachel Kister, Camryn Bailey, Giovana Consentino, Thalia Dawson, Natalia Sepulveda, Emily Richards. Freshmen: Jessica Askey, Gracey Askey, Claire Shaffer, Ruby Welpott
The Lady Crusaders will have a much different look on the court this season, as they graduated five seniors from last season’s team, including four of their top five players.
Those five graduates were Alicia Fritz, Emily Miller, Jenna Minard, Len Nguyen and Isabeau Stager.
Head coach Pete Meier said that lack of match play experience is the best way to describe his team this season.
Meier added that while his team lost five seniors, they do return five players who lettered last season in seniors Maggie Challingsworth and Emma Coppolo, as well as juniors Victoria Glatt, Grace Keyes and Sophie Neubert.
Coppolo, Challingsworth and Glatt all competed at the District 9 team tournament finals last season.
Meier expects senior leadership to be a strength for his team once again this year, with three seniors on the roster.
Coppolo, Challingsworth, Glatt and Neubert are all expected to see single’s action early in the season for the ECC.
The team has four newcomers, including three freshmen, who will look to gain experience early in the season.
Meier added that he expects the competition to be tough in the districts and is excited for the season to begin.
Elk County Catholic hosts DuBois in its season opener Monday.
Seniors: Maggie Challingsworth, Emma Coppolo, Ellie Flynn. Juniors: Victoria Glatt, Grace Keyes, Alicia Kim, Sophie Neubert, Marley Sorg. Sophomores: Aubrey Cahilly, Destiny Fisher. Freshmen: Gina Bush, Marcie Dollinger, Audrey Dornisch.
The Ramettes are hoping to see their hard work pay off on the court, as a large group of upperclassmen will look to lead the team this season.
The team has nine players on their roster, seven of which are upperclassmen with five seniors and two juniors.
Eight of those nine players return from last season, with just one newcomer on the roster.
The team returns Anna Cristini, Alex Hodgdon and Madison Amacher, who all competed at the district tournament last season.
Head coach Dan Carnovale said the heightened experience levels this season allow the team to focus on the areas that need work rather than the bigger picture of the game.
Carnovale noted that his team is spending most of their time and energy on fixing the small errors in every aspect of their game.
“I am very excited to see how this particular season plays out and see the girls’ hard work pay off,” the head coach said.
Seniors: Ana Arthurs, Anna Cristini, Amber Erich, Julia Schutz, Claire Yates. Juniors: Madison Amacher, Alexandra Hodgdon. Sophomores: Rachel Buhite, Chloe Trumbull.
The Lady Dutch will look for another strong season as they set out to defend their District 9 singles and team titles from last season.
Head coach Dave Lion said the starting spots to open the season are still up for grabs, as returning starters are competing with several newcomers for starting positions to open the season.
St. Marys will likely lean on sophomore Hayes along with fellow sophomore Lilia Lion, senior Isabela Ehrensberger and sophomore Brooke Henry to lead the team this season.
Hayes will look to defend her D-9 AA individual title that she won last season as a freshman.
Lion, Ehrenberger and Henry also all competed at the district tournament last season along with returning senior Lydia Wiest. St. Marys defeated Elk County Catholic 4-1 in the team final, as Hayes and Ehrensberger won their singles matches.
The Lady Dutch also got doubles wins from Henry and Kayla Mitchell who graduated last season, as well as Wiest and Samantha Samick, another player who the team will be without this season.
The team’s coach noted that his team has their work cut out for them, as they competition should be tough in the district this season and he is excited to see his team grow throughout the year.
St. Marys hosts Bradford for its season opener on Monday.
Seniors: Isabela Ehrensberger, Lauren Squires, Lydia Wiest. Sophomores: Lydia Ehrensberger, Samantha Hayes, Brooke Henry, Lilia Lion, Breanna Marconi, Kiley Williams, Hannah Winseck. Freshmen: Rachel Fleming, Davan Lion, Katlyn Stauffer.
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Sports writer Craig Moyer contributed to this story.