JT returns wealth of experience
Leanne VanEssendelft returns to the No. 1 singles spot in the Jim Thorpe lineup this season. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
Brooke Williams will handle the No. 1 singles position for Tamaqua. BOB FORD/TIMES NEWS
The three Times News area schools that have girls tennis programs head into the 2018 season with different expectations.
Jim Thorpe returns a wealth of experienced players and enters the campaign with high hopes, Pleasant Valley will be in a rebuilding mode after losing Times News Tennis Player of the Year Masani Francis and standout singles/doubles player Haley White, while a new coach at Tamaqua is excited about his team’s chances for improvement.
OPTIMISM APLENTY ... The Olympians return nine players with experience from last year’s 8-6 squad, causing for a wealth of high hopes around the courts. Head coach Norb Lienhard goes into his 23rd season with a realistic shot at a third straight season with a winning record.
SKY IS THE LIMIT ... “With so many girls having experience, we are looking forward to seeing just how far we can go,” said Lienhard. “Doubles player Triselle Samuels is the only player that graduated from last year’s roster.”
THEY’RE BACK ... Leading the list of players coming back for the Olympians is senior Leanne VanEssendelft, who returns at the No. 1 singles spot. Sophomore Christy McLean and junior Kaitlyn O’Neil will be back at the other singles spots.
DOUBLES ... Rounding out the wealth of returning talent are senior Angelica Uzar, juniors in Evelyn Flores and Chloe Getz, and sophomores Trista Gehris, Sophia Samoleski and Samantha Loughlin.
MAKING HIS MARK ...Head coach Mark Allison begins his 28th season at Pleasant Valley and has his work cut out for him, as the Bears lost several key players from last year’s team. “There are a few players back from last season, but this will be more of a rebuilding year for us,” Allison said.
STRONG CORE ... The Lady Bears have three juniors — Alyssa Wagner, Riley Wagner and Rebecca Makrides. — returning that Allison is looking to build his team around. “They’re a strong group of girls and they’re working very hard for us in the early going,” Allison said.
WORK, WORK, WORK ... The veteran coach is pleased with the work ethic of the inexperienced girls’ on the team. “They’re having fun learning the sport and I think that goes a long way with their development,” Allison said.
THE GOOD WITH THE BAD ... According to Allison, the Bears’ strengths is their work ethic and love for learning. But inexperience throughout the lineup will create some concern early on. “Hopefully, we can improve consistently as the season goes along, and our hope is to eventually become a competitive team in the always tough Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.”
NEW LEADER ... Rich Gibson takes over at the helm of the Raiders for the 2018 season and is enthusiastic about the group of girls and the things he has seen so far. According to Gibson, there is a healthy mix of returning talent with newcomers to the program, making for an exciting atmosphere.
GOALS ... Hopes for success are realistic as Gibson’s group has had a positive attitude in the beginning stages of the season. Their goal is to maintain that optimism and hopefully have that translate into victories as the season progresses.
THREE SENIORS ... Gibson has the luxury of returning three senior athletes — Brooke Williams, Lexi Breiner and Miranda Chinchar — to help with the guidance and development of the squad. The trio will comprise the Tamaqua singles lineup. Sophomore Annika Stahler, who saw a lot of action a year ago, will be a key member of the doubles lineup.
OTHERS OF NOTE ... Junior Jocelyn Rega, Senior Juliet Billig and freshman Sabrina Pratt are all looking to crack the starting lineup. Nami Choi, Juliana Bowman and Angelika Bolletino will be looking to contribute as well.