Bears have experience
patrick matsinko/times news Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Allison returns his entire singles lineup from a year ago. They are, from left, Kara Urland, Madison Olexson and Emily Thek.
Playing on the varsity level as an underclassman earns experience that normally bodes well for the future. This fact holds true across the spectrum of any scholastic sport. This year's Pleasant Valley girls' tennis team has plenty of returning letter winners and hopes to use that to its benefit.
Student-athletes who return to the playing field already possessing the knowledge and experience of being battle-tested on the varsity level usually have a distinct advantage over opponents without varsity experience.
According to Pleasant Valley head tennis coach, Mark Allison, it comes down to confidence in game experience and knowing the situation and how to properly respond in order to pull out the win.
"It definitely gives the player confidence in close matches," he said. "It gives the girls the confidence to be able to pull out a close match. When we have had close matches in the past, and been in this situation, the girls pay attention to what worked and what didn't and now, they will hopefully recall that experience and put that winning strategy in to play."
Another way of bringing about a positive effect from having returning athletes to the roster is the leadership factor that Allison sees as a big part of breeding success.
"Leadership is also a big thing when you have younger players coming into the varsity lineup and that will help us out," Allison said. "The younger girls can look up to these older girls in terms of confidence and knowledge of the game and they can help each other out throughout the season."
Looking at the individual lineup that Allison has returning for the 2013 Lady Bears, there's no better place to start than last year's TIMES NEWS Girls Tennis Player of the Year, Madison Olexson. As a junior this year, the consistent baseliner will be manning the number one singles position for Pleasant Valley.
"She's a steady player that plays how I wish all of my players would play," Allison said. "She's the kind of player that you want to play poker with because you can't tell if she's ever playing good or bad." Other than maintaining the same body language throughout a match and not allowing opponents to get a read on her attitude, Olexson has the ability and skill to return nearly every shot her competition brings at her.
"She gets to everything and doesn't necessarily have a big weapon, but is consistent enough to win plenty of matches and pull out the big points."
Backing up Olexson in the singles competition this season will more than likely be classmate Kara Urland and senior Emily Thek.
Allison sees them both as tremendous assets to the potential success of his team. "They both have experience in the singles game and they are both very coachable kids," he said. "I can really work with them and their games and they will seriously try a lot of things that I suggest for them to do on the court."
Seniors Sarina Tufano and Mackenzie Caffrey will be maintaining a hefty load of responsibility in the number two doubles position.
"Having them back is huge," Allison said. "They have experience playing together and are good friends on and off the court. The communicate so well with each other and have the makings for a really good doubles season this year."
The remainder of the lineup has plenty of potential and enthusiasm towards continuing to learn and improve and Allison is intent on that challenge of development of the talent.
"We are working on developing players and seeing what we have and what we can do from here," he related. "The group as a whole is a fairly quiet group that isn't too chatty and is happy with getting right down to business."
Looking at the season and trying to evaluate the team's competition, Allison sees every match as a potential challenge.
"We hope to competitive with most teams in the MVC, and we think we can be," he stated. "We also play some pretty tough teams outside of our league like Northampton, Liberty, Nazareth, and Easton, and we would like to compete with them, as well."
After going 6-4 in the league last season and having plenty of experienced talent returning, Allison should be satisfied when the season comes to a close.