Carlynton girls tennis starting over, focusing on fun, learning

Thursday, September 5, 2019 | 5:43 PM

A 5-0 loss in the season-opener never is cause for celebration. But regardless of what the scoresheet said after the Sept. 4 match against Vincentian Academy, members of the Carlynton girls tennis team could walk away satisfied.

Just being on the court was a victory.

Senior Spencer Putman, who attends Bishop Canevin and plays tennis at Carlynton as part of a co-op, expected a full squad when official practice convened in August. She knew a few players from the 2018 team hadn’t graduated, plus she had seen about a dozen names on a sign-up sheet in the spring.

To her amazement, she was the only one who showed up for the first practice.

“It was pretty tough,” she said. “It was quite a shock.”

So she and first-year coach Jake Trombetta began recruiting players in haste. Trombetta and fellow Carlynton teacher Matt Stagl took over the girls team in the offseason after leading the boys team to a 7-2 record in the spring.

They rounded up five players, all sophomores: Emma Younger and Julia Rinehart from Carlynton and Alysha Curti, Anessa Preteroti and Renee LaGrosse from Bishop Canevin.

Six players weren’t enough to fill three singles and two doubles spots, but it was a start.

Younger was the only one among the newcomers who had playing experience. With the rest, Trombetta had to start with the basics. The very basics.

Forget proper groundstroke technique. He had to teach them how to keep score and when to change sides.

“They’re all really good kids, and they have really taken to the coaching and not been overwhelmed,” said Trombetta, who played tennis at Carlynton and was a starter for the 1992 PIAA Class AA basketball champions. “It’s going to take some time, but I think just learning the game and having a positive attitude they are going to get better.”

Added Putman: “We’re just trying to keep them interested and excited about playing. We’re just trying to meet them at whatever level they are at and make them better.”

Trombetta said he keeps practices upbeat and fun. He mixes the mundane teaching with challenge games and often lets the players pick music to play in the background.

And he reassures the players by telling them he and Stagl “don’t claim to be tennis pros” and are learning on the job.

“They’ve made it pretty easy,” Trombetta said.

Given the initial player shortage, the Cougars got a little extra time to practice. Trombetta said Athletic Director Nate Milsom contacted some of the schools on Carlynton’s schedule and got a few early matches pushed back.

The result is a back-loaded schedule, but it allowed the newbies to find their footing before facing real competition.

The opener against Vincentian went probably as expected. Putman, in her fifth year of tennis, was the only Carlynton player to win a set. Still, she was encouraged by what she saw.

“We’ve seen quite a bit of progress,” she said. “It’s pretty impressive how much they have been able to do. Our first match, they all did fairly well.”

Trombetta said he is keeping expectations realistic. Given the neophyte status of most of the players and having to forfeit one match every time out, the Cougars will find wins difficult — if not impossible — to come by.

The eye is toward the future and having a program that won’t need to find players at the last minute. Putman won’t be around to see the results of this season’s efforts, so she is enjoying the moment and getting satisfaction from what she is helping to build.

“It’s been a pretty fun year. I have to be honest,” she said. “The girls bring a fun excitement and energy for the team. It’s been a nice change. … We’re having a really fun time bonding.”

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