Bell wants deep run, another team title for Latrobe tennis

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Tuesday, September 14, 2021 | 2:40 PM


Jenna Bell looks back at 2020 and is pleased with how the season unfolded for the Latrobe girls tennis team.

But she also knows there are still some hurdles to clear.

Bell, a senior standout for the Wildcats, has put together an impressive high school career, winning two individual section titles and three section doubles championships.

She also has a WPIAL silver medal in Class AAA doubles and a team gold medal from last season, when the Wildcats topped Upper St. Clair, 4-1, in the final.

“It was such a great feeling,” Bell said of the championship match. “It was such a special moment with all of the team.”

But that conquest ended for Latrobe in the PIAA finals, a 3-2 loss to Spring-Ford at Hershey Racquet Club last October.

“Our state run, it motivated us a lot as a team, even though we lost some of our varsity players, to keep going and make another team run and see how far we go,” said Bell, who lost to Spring-Ford’s Mia Matriccino in straight sets in the top singles contest.

Bell has a new coach for her final high school season. But the Wildcats’ new leader, Karissa Skiba, is no stranger. She’s Bell’s aunt.

“It’s a privilege to be able to coach her,” said Skiba, a former Latrobe tennis player who went on to play at Air Force. “Being able to coach her during her senior year, before she goes to college, it’s such a wonderful opportunity and a blessing.

“She’s very talented and is a hard worker and being able to see that throughout her life growing up, and then day in and day out with practices, has been really neat to see. With her work ethic and her ability and God-given talent, she’s going to do great.”

Bell has yet to decide if she wants to play college tennis, though the opportunity likely would be there if she goes that route.

“I’ve been looking at colleges for a career first,” said Bell, who wants to study pharmacy. “Then I’m going to see if I could possibly play tennis there.”

Bell’s goals for the year are pretty straightforward. Individually, she wants to win the section singles tournament for a third time, do well in the WPIAL singles postseason — where she already has a semifinal and two quarterfinals appearances — and, with that, make it to the PIAA playoffs.

“If that doesn’t work, then also I’m looking forward to section, WPIAL and possibly state doubles,” she said.

She will form a doubles tandem with fellow senior Caroline Walters.

“Oh, I love her,” Bell said of Walters. “She’s such a positive player and a fun person to be around. She’s very consistent and gets the ball back all of the time. She’s so mentally strong and physically.”

They’re the heavy hitters on a Latrobe squad that has a target on its back in Class AAA but one Skiba believes is ready for the challenge.

“It’s definitely a hard-working team and definitely a team that is encouraging with a positive attitude and is excited for this season,” she said. “I’m very blessed to have a team who wants to work hard and is willing to work hard.”

Bell is focused on improving her aggressiveness and her ability to get to the net in 2020. She was able to claim victory in her first competition of the season, a 5-0 team win for Latrobe over Penn-Trafford.

She also wants to continue to lead her younger teammates. And that’s something Skiba recognized early on this offseason.

“She is one of my captains on the team,” Skiba said. “She’s in that leadership role based off of her qualifications. I saw her as a leader and just being able to communicate well with the other players, as well as myself.”

Getting Latrobe back on top of the WPIAL girls tennis mountain, Bell believes, revolves around her personal guidance, with an emphasis on maintaining that positivity throughout the program.

“It really motivates everyone to do their best, try their best and play their best.”

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