Shaler girls tennis continues to grow

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Thursday, October 11, 2018 | 11:27 PM


Shaler freshman Zoe Smallwood would like to continue following in her mom’s legacy. That’s why she wants to spend some more time outside of tennis season working on her game.

“My mom played when she was in high school for Shaler,” Smallwood said. “She taught me you could always be better, so that’s why.”

Fostering that attitude is what Titans coach Brian Duermeyer has been working on. For the past few seasons, Shaler’s focus has been building the number of players in the program.

Having a program capable of competing for more wins will be convincing a few of those players to practice the sport year round. The Titans recently wrapped up the season with four victories, including a lone section win against North Hills.

“We played much better tennis, but it didn’t amount to more wins,” Duermeyer said. “My kids can all hit the ball. We were pretty close with Butler this year. We weren’t blown off the court by Seneca Valley, and those are two teams that are good measuring sticks for us.”

Kayli Hannan, who led the team with four singles wins, and Olga Hawley are two players who will be taking lessons in the offseason. Duermeyer said he is excited to see the progress Alyssa Lorenza, Olivia Wilkins and Smallwood will make over the next year.

“I really think our strength is numbers,” Duermeyer said. “We are growing our program. I’m excited about our youth, and we’re going to have a lot of talented kids back next year. They are finally starting to realize it is a year round sport. They are going to put in time away from the tennis season.”

Smallwood, who started playing tennis at age 4 and took a break to focus on softball, returned to the sport after playing some matches with her mom. While Smallwood was frustrated at times during the season, she felt she was able to become a more confident player.

Smallwood was able to fine-tune different aspects of her game.

“My serve, because I wasn’t that good at it in the beginning of the season,” Smallwood said.

Shaler improved as a group and was able to beat section rival North Hills for the second straight season. Duermeyer believes this group, loaded with youth, will be able to carry their experience from this year to next season.

All it will take is putting in some extra practice during the offseason.

“They realize when they see the competition how much it takes to be successful, especially in our section,” Duermeyer said.

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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