By BRIAN JENNINGS
Lady Knight tennis coach Robin Thompson said that she’s hoping there is some really good chemistry with the girls tennis team. Behind the scenes, parents have been organizing some preseason bonding. The girls have scheduled a number of get-togethers, even if they weren’t friends off the courts.
The Knights have been working hard since lasts season with one goal in mind: chemistry.
“They’re just getting together, talking, and having fun,” said Southington coach Robin Thompson. “I don’t really see any issues between the girls. I believe that I’m seeing some good chemistry with the team.”
Again, like last year, the girls tennis team has some new faces in the lineup this season. They lost just two players to graduation after last season, but they also lost 10 other players for various reasons. However, they’re still returning a plethora of young and experienced talent, including the team’s top player from last year.
Thompson said that the upcoming season is in the team’s hands.
“This is the year,” said Thompson. “We’ve got five seniors in the top 10, so hopefully there are some nice surprises ahead for us.”
The Lady Knights finished the 2017 regular season at 11-5 overall (8-2 home, 3-3 away), placing third out of five teams in the CCC Central Blue Division with a 5-4 record in the CCC Central Region (2-2 in CCC Central Blue). In the postseason, the 13th-seeded Knights fell, 7-0, to No. 5 Greenwich in the quarterfinals of the Class L Tournament. They entered the state open with a singles player and doubles team, as the singles player advanced as far as the second round.
One of the two players the Knights lost to graduation after last season competed at No. 1 singles. The other went 11-8 in doubles and was one half of the only doubles team to represent Southington at the state open.
Seniors returning to this year’s team include Samantha Barmore (8-7 in doubles), Madison Beaudoin, Carolyn Callahan (10-8 in singles), Molly Murphy (10-8 in singles), and Coral Tommervik (11-8 in doubles). Callahan and Tommervik were named as team captains for the upcoming season.
Barmore played at No. 2 doubles with three different partners last year and is expected to return to doubles this season. Callahan played at No. 4 singles, but is expected to take over one of the spots on the top doubles team. Murphy played at No. 3 singles and is expected to return to singles. Beaudoin is expected to play doubles. Tommervik is expected to make the transition from doubles to singles after playing at No. 1 doubles, representing Southington as the other half of the doubles team at the stat open.
“Carolyn, Molly, and Coral have a strong leadership, and they bring experience from their previous years of playing at a varsity level,” said Thompson. “Beyond the top spot, they occupy the next three spots.”
Juniors returning include Chantelle Gimenez, Allison Stanton, Jillian Watson, and Emma Wojcicki. Sophomores returning include Kathryn Hardy, Avery Korp, Isabela Miani, Abigail Murphy (15-4 in singles), Jessica Nguyen, Joelle Stublarec, and Gianna Wadowski. Gimenez, Hardy, Korp, Miani, Nguyen, Stanton, Wadowski, Watson, and Wojcicki are expected to play doubles. Abigail Murphy is expected to be the team’s top singles player, and Stublarec is currently between singles and doubles.
As the team’s only all-conference player last season, playing at No. 2 singles, Abigail Murphy was the lone Knight to represent Southington at the state open in the singles bracket as a freshman. She advanced to the second round before she fell, 8-1, to eventual state open singles runner-up, No. 6 Gabriella Dellacono of Stonington.
Thompson said that the biggest difference that she’s seeing in Abigail Murphy thus far is the improvement to her game. She said that Murphy added more skills.
“She actually started competing on a New England regional basis,” said Thompson. “She’s devoted a lot of time to improving her game and having a lot more tools in her toolbox.”
Mentally and physically with her game, Thompson said that Abigail Murphy has improved strategy.
“Because she now has some new skills and has even refined the ones she already had, she’s able to really attack her opponent a little bit sooner than she had been able to in the past,” said Thompson. “Just having that year of experience has added another layer to her repertoire.”
Thompson said that she thinks Abigail Murphy definitely wants to get back to the state open, advance further than the second round of the singles bracket, and maybe get to the second day as a possible all-state recipient.
“She’s got the building blocks to try to progress a little bit deeper into the tournament,” said Thompson.
Thompson said that the team will be stronger in singles than in doubles this season. Besides the Murphy sisters returning with singles experience, Thompson said that the changes she’s seen in Tommervik’s game from last year to this season are going to make her a good competitor.
“She worked hard on her game because she wanted singles,” said Thompson. “I just see a little bit of a different Coral than I’ve seen in the past couple of seasons.”
Thompson said that finding the right twosomes will be the biggest area of concern.
“We have to make sure that they’re strategically on the right side of the court,” said Thompson. “It’s finding people that complement each another, both in skills and personalities.”
Following a realignment of the CCC, the girls tennis divisions did not change. Southington is still in the Central Blue Division along with Conard, Glastonbury, Hall, and Simsbury. The Central White Division consists of Avon, Bulkeley, Farmington, NW Catholic, Weaver, and Windsor.
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