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Woodridge girls tennis team earns winning record

10/10/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — The Woodridge High School girls tennis team finished the 2013 season with a 7-5 record in the Portage Trail Conference (PTC) and a 7-7 mark overall.

Coach Shannon McHale said her team had “many strengths this year,” with a few areas left to shore up for the future. She said this year is her last as the Woodridge coach, as she has decided to leave to spend more time with her family.

“The girls have been very focused, very committed to improving, and they have all worked hard on strategizing and creating winning opportunities,” she said. “The girls need to work hard in the offseason. They need to work on better shot selections and court awareness. I believe they will be tough competition next year and they have a great shot at making it to districts.”

This year, the team included four “veterans” and three players who were new to the varsity squad, McHale said.

Woodridge’s first doubles team was comprised of two seniors who played tennis all four years at the high school: Julie Brazis, who spent two years on the varsity squad; and Cierra Simmons, who played for three years on varsity.

“Julie has improved greatly over the last year. She is a natural leader, and she is headed [to] the USTA [U.S. Tennis Association] camp this summer,” the coach said. “Cierra has a natural ability and a good competitive spirit. She helped run a USTA camp for kids over the summer.”

Playing first singles for Woodridge was Jen Pung, who was on the varsity team for all four years in high school.

“She is an amazing singles player,” McHale said. “She is very outgoing and has been a leader for the underclassmen. She also helped run a USTA camp for kids over the summer.”

The second singles player this year was Allie Vanaman, who spent three of her four years on the Woodridge tennis team on the varsity squad.

“She is very consistent with her shots and has an amazing upbeat attitude,” the coach said. “She won two out of three matches at sectionals and was one match away from going to districts.”

In addition, McHale said, Woodridge had two seniors who were key members of Woodridge’s junior varsity team this season.

“Arielle Lippian has played tennis all four years. She has played [junior varsity] all four years and has improved every year,” the coach said. “Melissa Freas has played tennis for one year. This was Melissa’s first year playing the sport — she came in to the sport with very little knowledge of how to play. She improved greatly over the season and is an inspiration to anyone interested in trying a new sport for the first time.”

According to McHale, two juniors who stood out for the team this year were Kate Downs and Holly Snyder, the varsity second doubles team.

“This was the first year that they played every varsity match for the season,” she said. “Their record for the PTC was 10-2, and 10-4 [overall] for the season. They were ranked No. 1 in the PTC this year, and finished in third place overall at the PTC [tournament]. They now have a varsity season under their belt, and I truly believe they will be unstoppable next season.”

Overall, McHale said, the Woodridge High School tennis program featured 10 underclassmen this year — six sophomores and four freshmen.

“Allison Pinta is a sophomore and is our third varsity singles player,” she stated. “The other nine ladies are new to the sport this year and have improved immensely over the season. We have several that are natural athletes and the others are committed to improving. They are a great group of young ladies.”

McHale said she will be eager to watch the players continue with their tennis careers.

“No matter how many difficulties, obstacles, tough opponents or discouragement that may come their way, they will always stay the course and overcome the obstacles with persistence, good sportsmanship, and a sense of pride,” she said.

Overall, McHale coached for the Woodridge girls tennis team for three years (one year as an assistant coach and two years as head coach).

“I would like to thank all the staff at Woodridge for all their help throughout the years. I truly appreciate all of them for their commitment to our sport,” she said. “I would also like to thank all the ladies that I have coached over the years. I have had an amazing experience coaching all of you and you all have been an inspiration to me.”

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