Pittston Area was blessed with eight seniors on last year’s girls tennis team. But that blessing quickly turned into a nightmare heading into this year’s season, as the 2015 squad will be without its entire starting lineup from a year ago.
The Patriots lost all eight starters to graduation. This year’s team features just two seniors and nine juniors. Second-year coach Amanda Waskavich will have to fill that void with players who have virtually no varsity experience.
The Patriots return just one player who saw court time last season. Senior Sara Swartz broke into the doubles lineup last year for a few matches. Swartz, along with fellow senior Jessica Borget, will compete for the singles spots along with eight other players this season.
“We lost our entire starting lineup,” Waskavich said. “Last year, everyone knew by the end of the season there would be a lot of openings. That’s what they’re fighting for now.”
Currently, the Patriots are spending the early days of practice playing “challenge matches.” Those matches are designed to help Waskavich gauge where her players stand. It also makes it easier for her to decide on the starting lineup.
“I honestly told them I have no idea who will be playing doubles,” she said. “It’s a good way to practice because you’re getting everything. They have to play against their teammate. The better player will come on top and take the spot.”
Swartz saw some time at doubles last season and Waskavich will look for Swartz and Borget to take on a leadership role and fall into one of the top three spots.
Swartz is a four-year player at Pittston Area.
“Sara will hopefully come out and take a singles spot,” Waskavich said. “We’re looking for her to have a nice season. She’s motivated and definitely one of the leaders.”
Borget hasn’t been around for the entire four years at Pittston Area. But she did come out this season with a much stronger tennis game.
“I was very surprised with how hard she’s hitting the ball,” Waskavich said. “She might be a little surprise for me and might fill a singles spot. She looks good right now.”
The team features the two seniors, nine juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen. They lack the experience in the individual sport, though Waskavich is happy with what she sees so far.
Fighting for some of those lineup spots will be Mackenzie Connors, Taryn Whitman, Breanna Yashkus, Madison McLoud, Brianna Jenkins, Julia Parrich and several others.
The team knows where it stands heading into the season. Waskavich would like to see a few wins but most of all she’s interested to see how they come together as a team.
Waskavich is preaching to her players to play smart. She wants them to learn the game and learn to hit the ball away from their opponents.
“I’ve been really stressing to play smart tennis,” she said. “I want the girls to be thinking about the shot. Just knowing where to place the ball can win you matches.”
The Patriots have a pair of scrimmages this upcoming week. The first official match comes on Monday, Aug. 31 at Tunkhannock. They will play at Hanover on Wednesday, Sept. 2 and at Holy Redeemer on Friday, Sept. 4.
“The girls are positive and I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls,” Waskavich said.
Reach Nick Wagner at 570-991-6406 or on Twitter @Dispatch_Nick