Newcomers sustaining success for Pine-Richland girls tennis
Saturday, September 15, 2018 | 3:27 PM
It’s not every year Pine-Richland girls tennis coach Janet Chappell rolls out five new starters in her lineup. And if it does happen, it’s usually not a great sign.
This season, however, has been the exception to that rule.
After qualifying for the PIAA Class AAA tournament last season for the first time in program history, the Rams found themselves breaking in a number of new starters in singles and doubles competition.
The newcomers have risen to the challenge, sporting a 5-0 record in Section 2.
“There’s a lot of new names. The first match we played, I was worried because we had five girls that hadn’t played a varsity match before. That’s five players out of seven,” Chappell said.
“They’re improving daily. The match play has improved a great deal since the start of the year. We have nine kids, and I consider them all starters. It’s rare that you have that depth. It’s a great luxury. We usually win on depth.”
For a good portion of the season, veteran Alyssa Sarver has served as the team’s top singles player. Recently, because of injury, Sarver has been yielding her spot to Abbey Nardulli, who has jumped up from the No. 2 singles spot. In the process, Nardulli has responded well, winning all of her matches except one.
“Abbey is doing very well. She’s a baseline player and she’s young, but she’s worked very hard. She’s improved a great deal from last year,” Chappell said.
“She played a couple of singles matches last year and just couldn’t pull through. This year, she’s mentally tougher and she’s going out there to win matches. It’s been great.”
Behind Nardulli, a mix of senior Katherine Stancil and Ellie Stokes, a sophomore, have each seen time in the singles lineup. Each have put together strong showings in their solo efforts, according to their coach.
In the doubles lineup, Stancil has formed a strong pairing with first-year starter Carly Billhimer. Rebecca Peng and Catherine Lee have been working together to form a successful duo. The final doubles pairing in the rotation is composed of Lilly Stokes and Meghan Wilson.
Prior to this season, only Nardulli, Sarver and Stancil had seen playing time at the varsity level.
“I don’t ever remember getting five new players except for maybe our first season,” Chappell said.
“There really is promise with this group, though. I look at the team and I truly think they could be in contention to go to states at some point. We’ll have to see where we stack up against all of the best teams first.”
Kevin Lohman is a freelance writer.