Wilkins steps into No. 1 singles role for Shaler tennis

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 10:16 PM

Olivia Wilkins didn’t want to come into her senior tennis season unprepared.

She took private lessons a few days a week over the summer to prepare for the daunting task of taking over the No. 1 singles spot on the Shaler Area girls tennis team.

Wilkins knew taking the top spot meant there would be no easy matches.

“I was a starter on varsity before, but didn’t have too much experience facing other teams’ best players,” Wilkins said. “It’s kind of scary because even if a team isn’t strong as a whole, their No. 1 player can be strong and have played for their whole life. It’s intimidating.”

The Titans, who are 1-1 thus far this season, benefited from Wilkins’ improvement during a 3-2 win over Central Valley on Sept. 3 on the road. Shaler dropped its season opener 5-0 against Mars.

Utilizing lobs and a consistent serve, Wilkins collected her first win in the No. 1 spot with a 6-2, 2-6, 6-0 victory against the Warriors.

Climbing the ladder was a three-year process for Wilkins, who started playing tennis a week before her freshman season.

“She’s worked her way up the starting lineup the way it should happen, naturally,” Shaler coach Brian Duermeyer said. “She started as a doubles player and had success there. She moved up to a third singles role and led the team in wins.”

Finding success as a tennis player was a process for Wilkins. Her athleticism helps her chase down a lot of shots and stay in rallies.

Being in the right positions to stay in points was a major focus.

“I worked on ground strokes and being able to read where the other players’ hits are going to come rather than waiting,” Wilkins said. “That’s why I am good at getting to a lot of the balls. I can read where the person is going to hit it at.”

The Titans showed their versatility during the win over Central Valley. Stephanie Le won 7-6, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, and Sara Stayduhar and Grace Gralewski won at No. 2 doubles.

Zoe Smallwood will play at the No. 2 singles spot for Shaler.

Duermeyer anticipates the Titans will see a lot of different players fill varying roles this season. Depth will be a key factor as Shaler battles in section matches.

“My girls are competitive girls,” Duermeyer said. “They are athletic. What makes Shaler tennis better than it’s been is we have depth all the way to 15. I have girls I can rotate into the starting lineup and not lose a lot for our ability to compete.”


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