Kristofco elevates her play, Wilkes program

Ally Kristofco has spent most of her senior season on the Wilkes tennis team stressing to its freshmen that they should feel comfortable in the fact they’ll be able to continue the winning tradition Wilkes has built over the past decade.

Kristofco should know.

As a freshman, she immediately entered the starting lineup and hasn’t stopped winning since.

“[Kristofco] has meant pretty much everything to us,” Wilkes coach Chris Leicht said. “She’s come in and been an instant starter on a championship team. She played pretty high, singles and doubles, even as a freshman and made our team better.

“She’s continued to grow and develop and become a leader. She’s an extremely hard worker, very confident and expects to win every time.”

That confidence has made Kristofco the winningest women’s tennis player in school history. The Bishop Guilfoyle graduate improved to 73-15 in singles competition and 78-14 in doubles play in her career when Wilkes topped King’s College to improve to 14-2 overall and 6-0 in Freedom Conference play on Wednesday.

Kristofco, recently named Wilkes University female athlete of the year for 2013-14, broke Alison McDonald’s singles record of 62 wins and Melanie Nolt and Katie Lynn’s doubles’ record of 61 victories earlier this season.

“It’s something I hadn’t really thought about,” Kristofco said. “It’s an honor for me, because I’ve been able to contribute a lot and the fact I’ve been able to be such a big part of the team success here is just great.”

Wilkes will be attempting to win its eighth consecutive Freedom Conference title when it begins the league playoffs as the No. 1 seed on April 29.

“It would be great [to win another team title], because we’ve been so successful during my time here, and with me finally playing at No. 1, it would mean a lot,” Kristofco said. “It would be a good note for me to go out on and the younger students to pick up.”

Leicht said Kristofco is a big part of the reason Wilkes will be favored to win another title.

“She’s so dependable,” Leicht said. “She’s going to go down as the all-time leader at a top program. She’s been two points on the board before we even start, and she’s got a great competitive drive.”

Despite her early success, Kristofco never became complacent.

“She’s developed more finishing shots, built up a little more strength and she attacks more,” Leicht said. “She’s not afraid to come to the net, and it has given her another weapon over the competition.

“She’s won three MAC individual tournaments. She won three titles, in tight contests, and I remember some of those against really tough competition. She was the conference playoff MVP one year and just kept working harder.”

Earlier this season, Kristofco was paired with Altoona graduate Ashli Livermore in doubles competition, but was forced to switch to Ana English during the spring semester after Livermore transferred to Messiah.

“It was a little bit tough, because I found out right before the spring semester started,” Kristofco said. “I think [English] and I only lost one match at No. 2 last year, so it was pretty familiar, but the teams we are playing now are tougher.”

Kristofco will graduate at the end of this semester with a double major in marketing and Spanish.

Though she won’t be physically a part of the team next year, her imprint will remain.

“We had a great class that graduated last year, and I was worried after they graduated,” Leicht said. “But she stepped in and mentored the freshmen that came up. She’s helped them get ready for the culture of college women’s tennis, and she’s become more vocal this year.

“We have a lot of freshmen in key spots, and she’s done a good job leading by example.”

Kristofco said when her playing career is over, she’ll have no regrets.

“I’ve really enjoyed it,” Kristofco said. “I’ve gone so many places, and it’s been such an overall positive experience for me.”