Successful season coming into focus for Pine-Richland girls tennis team

Saturday, September 19, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Pine-Richland seniors Ellie Stokes, Rebecca Peng and Katelyn Terchick tried to imagine the Rams lineup during a summer clinic at Lakevue Athletic Club.

Sophomore Elaine Qian, a four-star recruit ranked No. 5 in Pennsylvania, would join the team for the first time and slot into the top singles role. Stokes and Terchick would round out the singles competitors, and seniors Catherine Lee, Abigail Nardulli and Peng would be in doubles.

With five senior starters and a player of Qian’s caliber, they knew they could be competitive top to bottom.

“This year’s preseason was weird with covid-19, but our coach communicated with everyone really well,” Peng said. “We realized during tryouts how many good players we had, but for a long time, we were unsure if we’d play. At the beginning, we were just hoping we’d get a chance.”

By mid-September, the Rams had taken advantage of nearly every opportunity presented to them with a 4-0 section record and by going 2-1 in nonsection play.

“It’s been exciting being a senior and a little bit sentimental,” Stokes said. “I’m a captain along with Katelyn. We’ve done a lot to unify the team along with all of the seniors, which has been tough with the virus and wanting to get everyone together. We try to keep the energy up and try to encourage everyone in practices and games, and we make sure we’re in contact all the time.”

Dang Siriprasert has emphasized a collective approach to team leadership in her first season as coach after three years as an assistant coach.

“Everyone has the chance to be a leader, and the JV and varsity work closely together,” Siriprasert said. “We are all part of the same team, and if the players grow and learn, that’s winning. I look at the process, the way they practice, their well-being and not so much the result. Sure, I want to win, but their well-being, growth and being a good person is more important to me, and everyone is doing amazing.”

She also gives players with the most experience opportunities to mentor the team’s younger players, especially in doubles competition with freshman Rachel Smith and junior Haley Katzfey rotating in.

“Our double teams all depend on who we are playing,” Siriprasert said. “It’s nice to pair Rachel and Haley with seniors to help them grow in doubles.”

It’s a role the seniors have embraced.

“Doubles is a really different game from singles given your position and placing of the ball,” Peng said. “We’ve worked a lot to develop our strategies, and (our coach) is mixing us around until we have the ideal pairings for what we need.”

At the Section 2-AAA singles tournament, Qian was the top seed, and Stokes was seeded sixth.

With so much talent, the Rams hope they will be in contention for a section title.

“It would be so cool as senior to win the section,” Stokes said. “I love the team and the girls and this whole new coaching staff. With all of the circumstances we’ve faced this year, that would be amazing.”


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