Penn Hills girls tennis team welcomes tough competition

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Sunday, September 11, 2022 | 11:01 AM


Life isn’t easy for any Penn Hills girls tennis player taking over the No. 1 singles spot. With a team often as inexperienced as the Indians tend to be, there are a lot of potential pitfalls in a section with several deep teams.

Talia Russell has stepped into that role this season and impressed Penn Hills coach Richard Parks.

After playing primarily doubles last season, Russell took on the challenge of trying to improve.

“She’s stepped up a lot,” Parks said. “She was willing to come up and take on the section’s top players.”

Penn Hills, which is 0-3 to start the season, is in Section 3-3A along with Allderdice, Baldwin, Fox Chapel, Oakland Catholic, Plum, Shady Side Academy and Woodland Hills. Parks is pleased with Penn Hills’ overall progress despite the lack of victories.

The Indians have eight players on the roster, which is more than last season, including three returners. Russell, Olivia Grainey and Natalie Banks are all back from last year’s team.

Penn Hills had four players join the team from outside the program.

Parks believes the team has worked hard to make improvements. With only one freshman in the lineup, having more experienced players has made them more competitive.

“It’s because they got experience when they were young,” Parks said. “They are now building solidarity where they are at now. For us, the big thing is we are winning games during matches, which is something we had struggled with last season.”

For Russell, Parks has seen her open up her shot variety.

By being able to stay in rallies, Russell has been able to be competitive in matches.

“Her court awareness and serve are strong,” Parks said. “She has an accurate spin serve.”

Parks also said Grainey has done a good job stepping into the No. 2 singles role. Grainey teamed with Stephanie Coto to win her play-in match at the WPIAL section tournament before bowing out in the first round last year.

“She mostly played doubles last year,” Parks said. “She’s made a lot of improvements in her game.”

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