Hudak looks to develop Penn-Trafford tennis players
By: William Whalen
Monday, September 4, 2017 | 11:00 PM
To say first-year Penn-Trafford girls tennis coach Megan Hudak is personally invested in the program would be an understatement.
The 2011 Penn-Trafford grad and four-year starter on the tennis team was just 4 years old the last time Penn-Trafford won a WPIAL postseason match, and she's ready to get to work.
“We know how tough the competition is once we get out of the section (play) and who we face in the first round of the WPIAL (tournament) is really tough,” said Hudak, who played in college at Seton Hill. “I think its an accomplishment to make it to the WPIAL tourney.”
Having taken over for coach Jane DeBone, Hudak's first task is replacing all seven starters from a team that finished fourth in Section 1-AAA with a 6-3 record. Hudak isn't naive, having been the junior varsity coach for the past four seasons. She knew the Warriors were going to go through a rebuilding phase in order to break through and win that elusive first-round playoff match.
“This year, I'm looking at the team, and it's going to be a rebuilding year,” Hudak said. “We're in a pretty tough section, and I'm not expecting in the way of wins but my goal is to improve all of my players.”
The good thing is Hudak has been coaching most of the players at the junior-varsity level and knows their strengths and weaknesses, better than anyone. Hudak is going young in few spots for a few reasons. She would like to give some of the young talent a peek at varsity tennis. Sophomore Ruby Chen is a prime example of a player who has great potential but needs varsity experience to realize that potential. Hudak said by putting Chen at No. 1 singles, she hopes she will realize the standard by battling with the opponents' No. 1 players.
“I hope to work with her and hopefully improve her game and hang with some of the top girls,” Hudak said of Chen. “(Chen) sees the potential. She has a strong forehand (and) has the best ground strokes on the team.”
Senior captain Livvy Haberberger will play No. 2 singles. This will be Haberberger's fourth season on the team, but her first three seasons were cut short by injury. Hudak said Haberberger is fast and doesn't give up on a play.
Junior Sophia Pernick will play No. 3 singles. Hudak said Pernick is tough and has a knack extending matches and testing her opponent's conditioning.
“She's the one girl who has super-long matches and comes out wining a lot of them,” Hudak said. “I'm expecting a lot from her this year and next year.”
The Warriors are young at doubles, where three of the four spots are held by sophomores. The tandem of sophomores Holly Monroe and Sofiya Bidochko will hold down the No. 1 doubles spot. Hudak likes the fact she will be able to develop the duo for two more years.
Senior Rachel Mills and sophomore Olivia Carrera will pair up at No. 2 doubles. Hudak said they have the ability to extend matches and make their opponents work. Junior Cara Monroe also figures into No. 2 doubles mix.
“So far, they've done well together,” Hudak said of her No. 2 doubles. “They have long matches and are so close to winning.”
Hudak is keeping it all in the family, too. She brought her mother, Denise, on board to coach the junior varsity team, and her father, Joe, is a volunteer assistant on her staff. The move to bring her parents onto her staff was to build cohesion between the junior varsity and varsity teams as the teams are expected to support one another.
“When I was a player, I was so competitive I wanted to win so badly, and I see that with some of my girls,” Hudak said.
William Whalen is a freelance writer.