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JT’s ‘best’ season comes to an end

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    Jim Thorpe’s Kaitlin O’Neil returns a shot during Monday’s District 11 quarterfinal match against Allentown Central Catholic. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app for a photo gallery. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS

Published October 09. 2018 12:49PM

The sky was dreary and misty rain fell on the courts, but nothing about the weather or their District 11 AA playoff loss to Allentown Central Catholic could remove the sunshine cast upon this year’s Jim Thorpe girls’ tennis team.

“This is the best team in school history,” said head coach Norb Lienhard, “and this was the first time ever that Jim Thorpe had a home district match.”

The loss to ACC (13-6) seemed anti-climactic to the Olympians 13-3 season in which they won their first eight matches that led to earning them a fourth seed against the fifth-seeded Vikings.

JT’s No. 3 singles player, Kaitlin O’Neil, won the only match for the home team, defeating Meagan Niechwiadowicz, 6-4, 6-4.

“Kaitlin had really good movement today,” said Leinhard. ‘She was getting to everything and was hitting the ball well from corner to corner.”

Lienhard explained that the 4-1 overall team score loss was not indicative of how his team played.

“We battled for every point. We extended the lengths of each game. Like we did all season long, these girls never quit.”

ACC coach Jeff Biro was very impressed with Thorpe. “I’ve been coaching tennis for 32 years, and girls for 15 years, and this is the best Jim Thorpe team ever. I am very happy for Norb and his program. They deserve much praise.”

Lienhard said that the Vikings’ very competitive schedule had much to do with the strength of their team.

“They are very consistent,” he remarked. “They keep the ball in play until they see the finishing shot for the point, and they know how to take advantage of the shorter shot to keep their opponents off balance.”

In the first singles, JT senior, Leanne Van Essendelft won a game from match winner, Lauren Minutella. Thorpe also won three games with its No. 1 doubles tandem of Evelyn Flores and Angelica Uzar.

“We play very tough competition in the Eastern Penn Conference,” said Biro. “We preach effort and attitude to our girls and of course, keeping composure. We did that well today and Jim Thorpe never gave us any easy points.”

For these history-making Olympians, fans will long remember this girls’ tennis team and their season that has been written into the record books.

WEATHER OR NOT ... Right up until match time, the weather threatened a postponement, but any standing water was removed from the courts’ surface and was not a factor in play.

COMING BACK ... Thorpe returns No. 2 singles player Christy McLean, No. 3 singles player O’Neil, No. 1 doubles player Flores and the No. 2 doubles team of Chloe Getz and Trista Gehris for the 2019 season.

Central Catholic 4, Jim Thorpe 1

SINGLES

Lauren Minutella (ACC) def. Leanne Van Essendelft, 6-1, 6-0; Kiki Wang (ACC) def. Christy McLean, 6-0, 6-0; Kaitlyn O’Neil (JT) def. Meghan Niechwiadowicz, 6-4, 6-4.

DOUBLES

Jess Davis/Emma Sweterlitsch (ACC) def. Evelyn Flores/Angelica Uzar, 6-0, 6-3; Sabrina Yurconic/Kara Wang (ACC) def. Chloe Getz/Trista Gehris 6-0, 6-1.

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