TJ girls tennis looks to build on playoff season

Friday, October 25, 2019 | 5:18 PM

It proved to be a goal-achieving season for the Thomas Jefferson girls tennis team.

“We achieved our preseason goal to make the WPIAL Class AAA team playoffs,” coach Chuck Correll said. “The team really improved from last year. The girls worked hard during the offseason.

“This team ranks as one of my favorites. The girls were so close to each other. They really liked each other and seemed to have fun.”

The Jaguars’ top two singles players were sophomore Christine Rossi at No. 1 and junior Shannon Day at No. 2.

“Christine has great ground strokes and a very good serve,” Correll said. “She maintained a great attitude despite playing amazing competition.

“Three of the girls she played were state singles qualifiers. She handled the position of being No. 1 for TJ with determination and class. Her never-give-up attitude was a great example to set for the team.

“Shannon is a good baseline player who has surprising speed. Every match she played was competitive and every point played was hard fought.”

Rossi is involved in various clubs at TJ including choir and the yearbook committee. Her thoughts on the playoff season for the Jaguars?

Said Rossi: “We were all improving and playing consistently enough that the idea of the playoffs seemed very possible. As for my own performance, it was a very challenging season, but that has only driven me to work harder for next year.”

Along with competing on the tennis courts, Day is a member of the TJ marching band.

“I am very proud of our team,” Day said. “Out of my three years being a part of the team, I believe we saw our strongest season this year. We qualified for playoffs for the first time since being moved into Triple A, which was a huge accomplishment for us.

“I also believe my personal season was a success. At second singles, I do play a lot of tough competition, especially at schools such as Shady Side Academy and Fox Chapel. These matches are always great experiences to play against talented girls and improve my own skills.”

Day didn’t begin playing tennis competitively until eighth grade.

“For some, that is considered a late start,” she said. “However, I think I adapted quickly as I began to enjoy the sport and devote my time to it.”

Cathryn Rossi, a senior and older sister of Christine, competed at the No. 3 spot.

“Cathryn was our only senior starter,” Correll said. “She was really playing well at the end of the season and won some key matches at No. 3 singles.”

The elder Rossi was a four-year varsity member and three-year letterwinner. Her senior season was her best.

“I think the team, overall, performed really well this season,” she said. “We managed to put up some good competition against teams like Shady Side Academy and Oakland Catholic. And it truly is amazing to be able to say that we made the WPIAL playoffs for the first time since being in AAA.

“I am truly proud of my season. One of my biggest achievements was being one of the three winning matches that helped allow our team to make it into the playoffs. Out of my four years, this was definitely my best season. It truly has been an incredible four years and I have been thankful to be able to experience section doubles for two years, one of those years being with my sister. I am so fortunate to be able to say I ended my high school career in the WPIAL playoffs.

Rossi has a 3.85 GPA and is involved with Big Jag Little Cub, choir and yearbook committee. She began playing tennis in third grade.

“But I did not get serious about it until ninth grade,” she said.

After she graduates from high school in 2020, Rossi plans to major in psychology at Pitt-Greensburg.

“I look forward to joining their tennis team as well next year,” she said.

One of the strongest positions on the squad was the first-doubles tandem of junior Cassidy Como and sophomore Katie Sonnett.

“Cassidy and Katie played really well as a team,” Correll said. “Cassidy played well from the baseline, and Katie was dominant at the net.”

Sophomores Sidney O’Connell and Abby Dominick played No. 2 doubles.

“Sidney and Abby were a big surprise. Both continued to improve (throughout the season), especially at the net,” Correll said. “They won some key matches at the end of the season.”

Two other girls who lettered this year were juniors Cindy Oberio and Alyssa Polakovich.

“Cindy has a very strong serve,” Correll said, “and Allyssa is good at the baseline.”

Correll was assisted by Lisa Fairman, who also is in charge of the girls basketball program at TJ.

“Lisa was really instrumental in instilling a positive attitude,” Correll said. “She spent a lot of time with our JV team and made an impact on their improvement.”

With only one senior among the nine letterwinners, Correll has high hopes for the immediate future of TJ girls tennis.

“Making the playoffs was a big deal for us,” he said. “TJ is the smallest school in WPIAL Class AAA. We had to defeat much larger schools like Baldwin and Bethel Park. I’m excited for the future considering that we are young. The girls have already made plans on improving for next year.”

Day and Como, along with Oberio and Polakovich, will be among those expected to provide senior leadership in 2020.

“I believe we will be even stronger next season,” Day said. “Our team this year was pretty young, so I have great faith we will have a competitive team next fall.”

Cathryn Rossi, who has played tennis competitively since middle school, will miss having her sister as a teammate next season, but she has relished competing with her the past two years.

“With everyone playing in the offseason, I have high hopes for next year’s team,” Rossi said. “I am really glad to have played with my sister for two years and to have the opportunity to be doubles partners for sections.”

On a final note, Day was asked about her reactions to TJ’s newly opened high school and campus.

“(It) has been a big change, but the facility is beautiful and I enjoy the new environment,” she said. “Some of my favorite parts include the auditorium, cafeteria, band room and, of course, the tennis courts.”

The Rossi sisters chimed in their thoughts, as well.

“I honestly love the new high school,” said Cathryn, who added that two of her favorite components are the student center and tennis courts.”

“It is great to be in a new facility,” Christine said, “and I’m glad to have started the tennis season on the new courts.”


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