Newcomers step into key roles for Hampton girls tennis

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Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 10:08 PM


The coronavirus pandemic has had a dramatic effect on the Hampton girls tennis program.

The Talbots are starting almost from scratch this season.

“For a variety of different reasons, we had a number of returning players not try out this year. It certainly could have been covid-­related,” coach Grant McKinney said. “Out of 19 girls on the team, 13 are brand new to the program with 11 freshmen. I think we are all just thankful to be playing tennis and relishing the opportunity to compete.”

McKinney, a math teacher at Hampton, is in his 14th season as coach. He also serves as the boys tennis coach.

“It is a very hard time to be an educator, a coach, a student or a student-athlete,” McKinney said. “We are all working through this together, and I have been thankful for the support of Hampton’s athletic director, Bill Cardone, to make sports safe and doable.

“Those making decisions for our schools, including the board and administrators, have put in so many hours to make having a tennis match viable. The girls are very thankful to be playing.”

Two girls expected to embrace leading roles in 2020 are senior Lindsey Schwarzbach and sophomore Abi Green.

“They both worked very hard all offseason and are ready to step up to play first and second singles, respectively,” McKinney said. “Improving takes playing year-round, and dedication.”

Schwarzbach, who began playing tennis during her freshman year, is a versatile multi-sport athlete. She also competes at the attack position in lacrosse and plans to try diving for the first time this winter. She is a National Honor Society member with a 4.2 GPA .

“Because of the pandemic, a few girls who played last year had to take a year off from tennis this year,” Schwarzbach said. “That means that there’s a lot of underclassmen who have to step up and play in tough positions this year.

“Everything has changed so much and the season is just beginning, but everyone, including the coaches, is working hard to make it a successful season.”

Schwarzbach and Green are expected to compete at No. 1 and No. 2 singles with freshman Emma Spiess at No. 3. Junior Isabela Kasper and sophomore Mallory Malloy are set at first doubles, and the freshmen tandem of Elena Herchenroether and Melanie Malloy are stepping in at second doubles.

Caitlyn McCarthy and Danielle Perrone, both seniors, also will look to contribute in starting roles this season.

Schwarzbach held the No. 3 position on the team in 2019.

“Since I’m in a new spot on the lineup this year, my goals would be to improve my game and have good, close matches whether I come out winning or not,” she said. “I also want to get closer with my teammates and make good memories for my senior season.

“We are doing a hybrid model for school and I am attending in person on the days I’m assigned, which are Thursdays and Fridays. I’m looking forward to getting to know everyone, seeing how we all improve, and having a really fun season with my awesome team and coaches.”

The Talbots have experienced a playoff drought in their recent history, narrowly missing out on a postseason berth for the past four years.

“With all the young players (on this year’s team), it is a goal to work toward in the future, and I hope they are excited about growing together as a team,” McKinney said. “This especially applies to the freshman who come with a lot of enthusiasm.

“I am sure this season will be frustrating for them at times as the face some really good opponents, but it will provide ample opportunities to improve and learn how to battle.”

Hampton is a member of Section 2-3A with Butler, Mars, Moon, North Allegheny, North Hills, Pine-Richland, Seneca Valley and Shaler.

The Talbots are slated to host Fox Chapel on Sept., 18 at the Hampton Community Courts, followed by section matches Sept. 21 at home against Moon and Sept. 23 at Mars.

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