Hampton girls tennis improves with strong freshman class
Every year a new crop of freshmen join tennis teams around the area, and a handful make an impact.
But Hampton coach Grant McKinney probably hasn’t seen this talented of a group in quite some time.
Getting one ranked by the Tennis Recruiting Network as the top freshman in Pennsylvania can really help. That’s what Hampton received when Madison Cordisco transferred from Plum.
“She’s a strong player,” said McKinney of Cordisco. “She has won tournaments around the area and played in national tournaments, as well.”
Cordisco ranks 48th in the United States Tennis Association among girls 14-year-old players. Last year, she won the UTSA Level 4 Girls 16S Sectional Tournament as a 13-year old -- an advanced junior event at North Allegheny.
“She came from a different school district,” McKinney said. “I think it’s nice to have two other freshmen on varsity and don’t feel like you’re by yourself.”
Senior Grace Kang is holding down the No. 2 singles spot, but freshman sister Megan made the varsity squad, and is not far behind.
“That’s kind of neat to be a leader for the rest of the team, but also to have your little sister on the team,” McKinney said.
Team captain Lehka Pendyala will start her second full year of playing first doubles with senior Rachel Weber. Pairing at second doubles are senior Rachel McGinley and junior Allie Crist.
While the freshmen feature loads of individual talent, the doubles pairings will be key to success for Hampton. The pairings started the season by winning eight of their first nine combined matches, helping the team to a 2-1 record.
“There are times when we’ll be the deciding match,” Pendyala said. “Other competitive schools, their doubles teams won’t be as competitive as the singles players. So, it’s up to the doubles teams to pull out a win for our team.”
Pendyala, the team captain, likes the chemistry she and Weber have developed after having a full year playing together at No. 1 doubles.
“In the beginning it was a little bit harder,” she said. “Now we know each other so well, we’re able to communicate better, and that helps us perform better.”
The team did drop its first two section matches to Seneca Valley and Pine-Richland. It will have to play catch up in a tough section that also includes North Allegheny and Butler.
“It’s probably one of the most competitive sections,” McKinney said. “Playoffs is our goal, but we’re going to have to get some key wins. Last year we were 2-6. That’s not going to get it done.”
The team has to push through early without Cordisco, as she heals from a shoulder ailment. Freshman Gabrielle Miller has been a pleasant surprise at No. 3 singles, winning her first three matches.
McKinney is happy to see another Miller on the team. Gabrielle’s sister, Abby, finished a stellar career for the Talbots last season, holding down the No. 1 singles spot for three years.
“She’s similar in playing style to Abby,” McKinney said. “And she has a ton of grit. She wants it. She comes out and battles every time.”
With the blend of youth at singles and experience at doubles, the team hopes to improve from its 5-11 overall mark last year.
“I think we’ve improved,” McKinney said. “Obviously, it helps bolstering your team with good freshmen. But all the girls in the offseason worked. They went out and played clinics and were motivated to improve individually, and it’s contributed to the strength of the team.”