Thomas Jefferson girls tennis players look forward to future of program

Sunday, October 18, 2020 | 11:01 AM

Thomas Jefferson recently wrapped up a winning 2020 season in girls tennis.

Behind a lineup dominated by juniors and seniors, the Jaguars ended up 7-6 while competing in Section 3-3A.

“I thought we were very competitive this season and were very close to winning in several matches,” said Chuck Correll, TJ’s veteran coach. “Many of our losses were very close at 3-2.

“TJ is the smallest public school district in the WPIAL Class AAA. We are in one of the toughest triple-A sections.

“I will have an experienced team next year, but each player will have to improve her skills during the offseason. We could be a threat to make the playoffs.”

The Jaguars’ starting lineup in 2020 consisted of juniors Christine Rossi and Sydney O’Connell at first and third singles, and senior Shannon Day at second singles.

“Christine Rossi was much more experienced this year and was competitive in every match,” Correll said. “Sydney O’Connell took a big step forward this season. I expect big things from her next season.

“Shannon Day was a very strong starter at second singles. She was competitive in every match; she was very consistent with her ground strokes.”

Day is a determined player who uses her quickness to her advantage. Off the court, she is treasurer of the AP Humanities Club at TJ, is involved in numerous clubs, and owns a 4.3 GPA.

I take pride in my school work, and I think I had a great season. I am super happy that I was able to finish out my senior year,” Day said. “As a singles player I face a lot of tough competition, but I never let it bring me down and always try to have fun on the court.”

Rossi has a 4.28 GPA and is involved with choir and yearbook staff, plus a other extracurricular activities and clubs.

“I am really proud of my season; it went really well,” Rossi said. “I worked hard in the offseason to improve my serves and ground strokes.

“I think the team performed really well with the tough competition. Our doubles teams worked well together and everyone worked hard.”

With a talented group of juniors on this year’s squad, Rossi already is looking forward to the potential of the 2021 team.

“I am looking forward to next season, given our team’s potential,” she said. “We have players who are determined and work hard in the offseason.”

Katie Sonnett, a junior, and Cassidy Como, a senior, competed at first doubles for the Jaguars this fall.

“Katie Sonnett was dominant with very good skills at the net,” Correll said. “Cassidy Como started at first doubles which, with Katie, was our strongest position. Cassidy had a very strong baseline game.”

Four girls played at second doubles, consisting of the tandem of junior Holly Hannon and senior Alyssa Polakovic, and senior Cindy Oberio and junior Madison Keck.

“Seniors Alyssa Polakavic and Cindy Oberio were very strong doubles players,” Correll said. “Allyssa was very fast and had great court coverage. Cindy had a strong serve and was dominant at the net.

“Holly Hannon was a new addition to the starting lineup and improved as the season went on. Madison Keck came back after losing the previous season with an injury. She has a lot of motivation and will improve next season.”

Two other senior team members in 2020 were Maansi Shaw and Molly Dixon.

“They were very dedicated and helped our younger players improve their play,” Correll said. “I want to thank the seniors for providing leadership during a very different season with all of the restrictions we experienced with covid-19.

“Covid-19 was the dominant issue with our season. We needed to protect our players so that our season was possible. The girls were expected to wear a mask outside of the courts and on bus trips. Temperatures were taken at every practice and match, and coaches were expected to wear a mask at all times.”

After watching spring sports being canceled statewide, Day and her teammates were excited to play in a fall schedule.

“The pandemic obviously affected our season but I was very thankful to be able to play,” Day said. “We could not practice all summer like we normally do, so that definitely put us at a disadvantage. We finally began practice at the very end of July and had to get used to the everyday temperature screenings and mask requirements.

“Once the season began, matches were slightly different. We no longer shook hands with coaches or opponents and tried our best to avoid any physical contact. Other than that, I’d say our season was as close to normal as we could’ve hoped. The team really came together despite the lost practice time and I believe we had a strong season.”

Rossi echoed those comments.

“Because of the pandemic, we weren’t able to start practicing as a team until later than usual,” she said. “Also, with places closed, it prevented some from practicing on their own. I am really glad we were still able to have a season even though it felt a little different.”

Fox Chapel won the section championship and was joined in the WPIAL team playoffs by Shady Side Academy, Oakland Catholic and Baldwin.


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