Longtime Thomas Jefferson tennis coach savoring final season

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Sunday, October 24, 2021 | 11:01 AM


There is a major news flash brewing in the Thomas Jefferson tennis program.

After 42 years of coaching, Chuck Correll plans to retire next spring following the boys tennis season.

“I decided several years ago that I would retire at age 70,” Correll said. “I plan to stay in shape and spend more time with my family.

“My 21 years at TJ were special because of all the great athletes. There is a culture at TJ of creating great athletes. They are hard workers and very competitive.”

Correll, who celebrated his 70th birthday March 27, has coached in the girls program at TJ for 21 years and the boys for 16. He also guided the boys and girls teams at Keystone Oaks for 18 seasons, tacked on five years as the boys coach at South Park, along with three with the boys and girls squads at Chartiers Valley.

“I took six years off to be dad,” Correll said. “I watched my three sons play middle school and high school sports. I was hired immediately (at Chartiers Valley) after that was over.”

Correll also served as an assistant basketball coach at Keystone Oaks for 25 years.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

His career record in tennis stands at 686-302. At TJ, it’s 395-133.

“Funny story,” Correll said. “My son was coaching the TJ boys when I was coaching South Park’s boys. When he got a teaching job at South Park, the two ADs decided to trade coaches. They didn’t even have to change the names on the checks.”

Correll coached this fall in his final season with the TJ girls squad. The Jaguars ended up 3-5 in section play.

“Our section was very tough,” Correll said. “I was very proud of our effort. We were able to compete with every team.

“I have had a lot of great memories in my career with the girls.”

The Jaguars were led once again by senior Christine Rossi, who competed at No. 1 singles.

“Christine was one of the best players I have coached in many years,” Correll said. “She had one of the best serves in our section.

“Christine was very important to us as the team leader. She led by example and was a motivator to the other players. She never gave up in a match.”

Rossi fought through minor injuries during the fall campaign.

“We had a strong team full of talent, and I think we played well even with the tough competition we faced,” Rossi said. “I worked on my ground strokes and serves during the offseason. Unfortunately, some minor injuries kept me from a peak performance.”

Rossi began playing tennis for fun in elementary school, then opted to enhance her game and play more competitively while in middle school.

“I started playing tennis just to keep active. I had no idea I would love it as much as I did, and in middle school, I started to get more serious about playing,” Rossi said. “Freshman year, I was happy to be a part of a team, and every year after that I learned what it is to have determination.

“Some of my favorite (tennis) memories from the last four years would have to be the bus rides with the team, the trips to sections and giving pep talks in the huddle before our matches.”

Rossi owns a 4.4 GPA and plans to attend college and continue her tennis career. At TJ, she is involved in the National Honor Society, yearbook staff, AP humanities, choir and other school clubs.

“Tennis has become more than just a sport for me because I’ve made some of my best friends by playing on the team,” Rossi said, “and I’ve enjoyed working hard toward different goals.”

Rossi was a four-year varsity player at TJ and competed at No. 1 singles for three seasons. She enjoyed being coached by Correll, along with her progressive role with the Jaguars each season.

“Chuck welcomed me to practice with the team since I was young,” Rossi said. “He has been very generous with his time, doing summer clinics and bringing a lot of girls onto the team, encouraging them to continue to play.

“I’m glad he gave me this opportunity and to even let me help coach middle schoolers at clinics this past summer.”

Rossi was complemented in the TJ lineup this fall by seniors Sydney O’Connell and Holly Hannon at the second and third singles positions.

“Sydney was one of my most improved players this year. Her ground strokes are powerful,” Correll said. “This was Holly’s first year at singles. She has a good backhand, and she improved as the season progressed.”

Seniors Katie Sonnett and Abby Dominick, junior Addie Milas and freshmen Ada Trbovich and Josie Griffiths competed at first and second doubles for the Jaguars.

“Katie is what any coach would want out of a doubles player. She has a good serve, good overhead and is a great net player. She is fearless at the net,” Correll said. “Abby was awesome. She hustled and never gave up on the ball. She’s also very good at the net.

“And Addie is a good baseline player. She has a consistent backhand.”

Correll then discussed the performance of the two talented freshman starters, Trbovich and Griffiths, along with the outlook for next year’s team.

“Ada is a good baseline player. Her ground strokes have topspin with lots of power,” he said. “Josie was our super sub. She (ended up being) expected to play in three-quarters of our matches because of other player injuries. She is very good at the net and she continued to improve her ground strokes.

“Next year’s team will be good but inexperienced. Ada, Addie and Josie should continue to improve and be competitive. All three will take a big step forward next year.”

Correll, who’s been married 46 years to his high school sweetheart, Carol Blake from West Mifflin, has battled serious health issues in the later stages of his coaching career. He is looking forward to the spring season with mixed emotions.

“My last season with the TJ boys will be awesome,” he said. “If we remain healthy, we have a chance of being really good.”

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