Young Shaler tennis pair becomes friends through doubles partnership

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Sunday, September 17, 2017 | 6:15 PM


If a tennis resume from Amber McGaffick would have slid across Mackenzie Romac's desk, there would have been little connection.

Before her freshman year, Romac knew little about the sport. She might have known less about McGaffick, who is a fellow sophomore at Shaler.

“I saw her in the hallway, and I knew who she was,” Romac said. “Until tennis, we didn't talk too much. Other than tennis, there wasn't anything related between us.”

Being put together as a doubles pair by Titans coach Brian Duermeyer in the preseason sparked a friendship between the pair. McGaffick, who has a background in soccer, and Romac, who plays lacrosse, have solidified the second doubles spot for Shaler.

The Titans were 2-6 entering their match Monday with North Allegheny, the results of which were too late for this edition. One of Shaler's wins was a Section 2-AAA victory over North Hills on Sept. 13, which was the Titans' first win over the Indians in 12 years.

One thing Romac and McGaffick had in common was how they got into tennis. Their interest was sparked by attending a camp Duermeyer held last year.

The plan for them was for them to build their skills in junior varsity. The speed with which they picked up a doubles strategy warranted a change.

“They've really provided us a spark,” Duermeyer said. “If they continue to improve like they have, they could be a force. They forced my hand in tryouts, they played so well. Their play decided they would be on varsity.”

Being able to communicate effectively has been a key component of their success.

A willingness to adapt and settle into roles has helped catch teams off guard.

Romac likes to attack the net, and McGaffick enjoys hanging back.

“We have a nice bond together,” McGaffick said. “She has good net play, and I have good back shots. When we combine those two, that's how we get points.”

Having a background in other sports where talking is a necessity made working together a fluid process. While charging full-force toward the net, Romac has a knack for knowing when the ball is out of reach.

“It came right away,” Romac said. “It was a natural thing. We knew we needed something. If the ball was over my head, I would say, ‘Yours.' ”

Other things have fallen into place as well. Both girls' serves have started to fall more. That has allowed the new-found friends to form a strong bond.

Few teams would be able to guess they were nothing more than faces in the hallway in the recent past.

“Winning against teams that have more skill and played longer than us (feels good),” McGaffick said. “It motivates us to strive for excellence, to win and make Mr. Duermeyer proud. We stay positive and keep our head in the game.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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