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Firestone girls tennis team looking to defend City Series title

8/22/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

WEST AKRON — Last year, the Firestone High School girls tennis team achieved a stunning turnaround in fortunes. This year, said head coach Craig Sampsell, is about not only maintaining that success, but building on it.

“[Last season], we were 10-8 and we were City [Series] champions, a great accomplishment after an 0-for season the previous year,” the coach said. “We would like to continue the trend of increasing our wins and, obviously, retaining the City Series title is very important to us.”

The biggest key this season, Sampsell said, is getting off to a winning start.

“This year, we would like to start out strong — not just overall with wins, but in each individual match,” he stated. “I’d like to see the girls take control of their matches early and not let up.”

Sampsell said his team should be strong at the top.

“This year, Mary Yu will anchor our squad at first singles,” he stated, “and I think our first doubles team of Izzy Curlee and Gretchen Shisler will give us a lot of wins.”

According to Sampsell, this year’s team features plenty of players who have been on both sides of the winning spectrum.

“This year we have a solid team of returning veterans, most of which have experienced our 0-for season and the great turnaround last year,” he said. “Senior starters include: Christina Aronhalt, a real grinder who never quits; Izzy Curlee, who is the glue that holds this team together; Casey Miller, our tough as nails competitor; and Isabella Sabatina, who is a great all-around player and person.”

In addition, the coach said, two juniors are expected to stand out this season.

“Gretchen Shisler and Erin Siegferth have both come into their own,” he stated. “Erin has improved her game greatly and will be leading this team with Gretchen next year.”

Sampsell said the team’s underclassmen will be working hard to earn time on the court.

“The rookies on our team have a long way to go as far as game improvement goes, but I know each of them is dedicated to increasing their abilities,” he stated. “They’ll be working hard throughout the season and continuing those efforts in the offseason. They understand that it takes more than what the season has to offer to get better.”

Sampsell, who said he has been the team’s coach for “over 10 years,” is assisted by Becca Aronhalt.

“I love the way our team comes together,” Sampsell said. “Year after year, the ladies on this team continue to impress me with their positive attitudes, outstanding sportsmanship and their sincere compassion for their teammates. It makes me proud to be able to say I’m their coach.”

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