By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington girls tennis returns some experience from last year’s team, and there is reason for optimism on the Bob Garry tennis courts this spring.
“Our strengths include having a number of players who are returning to our team and have devoted time to improving their skills in the offseason,” coach Robin Thompson said. “Solidifying our line-up—who will be singles players and who will be our doubles teams—is our primary concern at this time. We are still fleshing that out.”
Senior captains Chantelle Gimenez and Jillian Watson return from a Southington team that went 14-4 (13-3 CCC) during the regular season. Top player Abby Murphy, a junior captain, is also back for the Lady Knights. Juniors Joelle Stublarec, Gianna Wadowski, Kate Hardy and Isa Miani will be part of the varsity lineup. Murphy, Gimenez and Stublarec will all play singles this season.
Southington was the No. 11 seed in the Class L state tournament, but still had to play a qualifying round match against No. 22 Westhill at Greenwich High School. The Knights lost, 6-2, to the Vikings.
“Our primary goal this season and every season is to qualify for the state team tournament,” Thompson said. “We expect to qualify again this season, and with some strong performances along the way, we hope to get a bye out of the qualifying round.”
Playing in the qualifying round of the girls team tournament means having to play an extra match. The host team gets a bye through the qualifying round and plays the winner of the qualifying match in the first round. In 2018, the top eight teams had a bye through the qualifying round.
Southington lost five seniors to graduation, including All-CCC West performer Carolyn Callahan. Thompson said the Knights will look to get the lineup set up and get the newcomers acclimated with the veteran team members. A large number of returnees should help in that regard.
“We have a large junior class. While some did not compete in matches last season, they do have the skills necessary to compete in our matches,” Thompson said. “We return our top player, Abby Murphy, to our line-up and that will help us tremendously. Abby is one of the strongest players in the area.”
Murphy and Gimenez were All-CCC West honorees in 2018. Thompson may call on some sophomores and a freshman to join the varsity lineup later in the season. For now, it’s about melding the lineup together.
Southington is scheduled to open the season at home on April 4 against Plainville at 3:45 p.m.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com