Hampton tennis players improve against tough competition
Thursday, September 26, 2019 | 3:29 PM
Members of the Hampton girls tennis team are finding out playing the sport isn’t just enough — you have to love it.
That’s the goal for the offseason after a team led by sophomores in singles performed admirably in the wake of losing WPIAL championship contender Madison Cordisco to a private tennis academy.
“I think they’re excited to work in the offseason,” coach Grant McKinney said. “I think they know just playing in the fall is not going to help them compete. So they’re excited to compete year round. Even some of the girls on the JV team.”
The team will have an opportunity to finish its team play on a high note after starting 2-5 in section play. The singles players are led by Gabriella Miller and Megan Kang.
While Miller made appearances in section tournament play as a freshman, this year was Kang’s first. Despite playing Ella Sinciline from North Allegheny, who beat her in straight sets in a regular-season team matchup, Kang showed fight by earning two points. Sinciline finished the tournament in second place.
“It was encouraging to see her get points,” McKinney said. “She had nothing to lose, just hustled and got her frustrated with some aggressive shots. It was working earlier on. I think she had a strong game.”
Miller also made strides in dropping a 10-6 matchup to Alexis Chappel of Butler in the second round. At one point, Miller was down 5-4 before Chappel took control of the match.
“I think she took a big step in playing how you need to in order to win in competitive matches,” McKinney said. “I think she learned how to get some offensive shots, and it was a big step for her confidence. I saw her make some shots she’d never gone for in a match.”
The third singles player, senior Carissa Miller, did not participate in section singles. But her love of the sport is taking her to play tennis in college. A number of Division III schools are interested, though she has yet to make a decision.
“I think she loves the sport and loves to compete,” McKinney said. “Being on the court is something she still really wants to do the next four years of her life. I’m glad she’s going to stick with it.”
Kang and Miller competed in the section doubles tournament, along with Lindsey Schwarzbach and Ella Hilton, who have been a mainstay at first doubles since the fourth match of the season.
“I think Lindsey and Ella enjoy playing together,” McKinney said. “I think that athleticism with Lindsey serves them well at the net.”
Though the team is coming off five consecutive losses — mostly to difficult opposition such as Fox Chapel and Peters Township — it has a chance to finish strong.
“I told the girls this is a good tune-up,” McKinney said. “We have four matches left, and our goal is to go 3-1 in those matches and finish on a strong note.”