Hampton girls tennis vows to show improvement after winless season

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Sunday, August 22, 2021 | 10:01 AM


Junior Abi Green is hoping to put a new spin on her 2021 season with the Hampton girls tennis team.

The program’s top returning singles player worked this spring and summer to tweak her forehand and backhand strokes as the Talbots look to rebound from a winless season.

“I worked a lot,” Green said. “There are certain ways you can hit (the ball) where you will have more spin instead of just straight power from your arms. So it’s easier on your arm, and it’s harder for your opponent to hit back.”

Green is among at least a half-dozen returning players for the Talbots, who open Section 1-AAA play against visiting Seneca Valley on Aug. 30.

Green, who played mainly No. 2 singles last season, said she noticed gradual improvement as she reworked her mechanics while playing “as often as I could.”

“The thing about changing the form of something is that it takes awhile, and it often gets worse before it gets better,” she said. “So, I think for a long time, it didn’t look like it was improving. But I think now I can look back and definitely see that all of work on the form helped.”

Among the other Talbots’ returnees are Isabella Kasper, the lone senior on the roster; sisters Mallory Malloy, a junior, and Melanie Malloy, a sophomore, and fellow 10th-grader Elena Herchenroether. Junior Heidi Kroneberg looks to take another step forward after her first year of organized tennis, and promising freshman Grace Stitt is poised to earn a prominent role.

“I think she will start right away,” coach Grant McKinney said of Stitt. “I don’t know what position, but I do think she will start. It’s always nice to have someone that comes in that has already played a lot of matches in her career before starting on varsity.”

Competing in a rugged Section 1-AAA against some of the WPIAL’s biggest schools, the Talbots went 0-10 last season. It was a learning experience in which 13 of the 19 players on the roster were newcomers to the team.

But with a year under their belts — and some talented newcomers — McKinney and his players are cautiously optimistic about this season.

“I think a lot of the girls have really put in work in the offseason to try to get better,” he said. “I hope it shows in the record. But I definitely think it will show in terms of just the confidence and the competitiveness.”

Added Green, “I think as much as last year was great and amazing, we didn’t win. Maybe this year if we have a few more wins with that same really strong-knit (team), it can be even better.”

Sophomore Emma Spiess, another one of the team’s top singles players, will be better. She attended multiple clinics this spring and summer and worked on her ground strokes and serves.

“Last year we were all so new, and we didn’t really know each other that well,” she said. “We have all played with each other for a whole year, so hopefully, we’ve all improved and we can be better this year.”

Another factor is a balanced roster. The team tryouts and challenge matches were expected to be highly competitive as the players vie for three singles spots and starting roles on the two doubles teams.

Even Green, who appears locked into one of the top singles spots, said she is taking nothing for granted during the challenge matches that determine the Talbots’ starting lineup.

“It’s all open to change coming into this year because everybody has been playing so much,” she said. “It is definitely interesting. It adds a little bit of stress to tryouts, but it also adds a bit of excitement, which is fun. It drives everybody to get better, and that’s always good, to have a reason to really want to improve.”

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