2019 High school tennis preview: Hollidaysburg replacing all of its starters in 2019

Hollidaysburg finds itself in an unfamiliar position as the 2019 high school girls tennis season begins today.

The Lady Tigers, who won the District 6 Class 3A team title the last four years and nine out of the last 10, have no starters returning from last season’s 19-2 team.

That’s not to suggest Hollidaysburg won’t enjoy success in 2019 as the Lady Tigers have some talented newcomers, along with 15 returning players who will be looking to make impacts this year.

Altoona, on the other hand, lost just one starter from last season, and has seven returners, led by senior Alese Rinker, who were regular starters last season.

Elsewhere, Central Cambria and Bedford should be strong again in the Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference with the return of their No. 1 singles players. Junior Olivia Ratchford is a two-time District 6 2A singles runner-up for Central Cambria, and senior Emily Ruhlman is the defending District 5 singles champ for Bedford.

Bishop Guilfoyle returns its No. 1 singles player in sophomore Erin Talko.

Tyrone and Central will battle it out in the Mountain League. Both return four starters, including their No. 1 singles players in Winnie Grot of Tyrone and Kierra Mountain.

Altoona

Coach: Eric Hovan, 23rd year

Career record: 572-159

Last year’s record: 10-5

Conference: None

Returning starters: Alyson Hollingsworth, sr.; Alese Rinker, sr.; Julia Whiting, sr.; Isabella Frank, jr.; Eve Hogan, jr.; Emily Neil, jr.; Emma Skelley, soph.

Other returners: Anastasia Slobodnik, sr.; Olivia Waksmonski, sr.; Maura Brandt, jr.; Mya Crownover, jr.; Meg Keating, jr.; Alaina Koehle, jr.; Marissa Walgrove, jr.; Rylie Whitaker, jr.; Brooke Ajay, soph.; Avery Burchfield, soph.; Olivia Chille, soph.; Jaci Clouser, soph.; Becca Dull, soph.; Elly Eisel, soph.; Tiffany Guo, soph.; Becca Holliday, soph.; Stevie Jones, soph.; Jayla Nartatez, soph.; Mia Sassano, soph.; Mercedes Thompson, soph.

Newcomers: Jess Helsel, sr.; Maddie Kanouff, sr.; Adaliz Corbin, jr.; Mallory Cree, jr.; Brooklynn Rupert, jr.; Brooke Harrington, soph.; Sophia Caputo, fr.; Katie Hovan, fr.; Leah Koehle, fr.; Morgan Stevens, fr.

Strengths: “We return seven players who had significant playing time as starters last year. That group is led by three players who started in our singles lineup in Alese Rinker, Emma Skelley and Eve Hogan. Isabella Frank has really played well this summer and could enter the singles mix as well. Morgan Stevens and Sophia Caputo are both big impact freshmen this year that will play a huge role for us. We have a lot of kids — Mya Crownover, Alyson Hollingsworth, Julia Whiting, Emily Neil, Alaina Koehle, Stevie Jones and Meg Keating — who have really worked hard over the last year to really step up their game and are in the doubles mix for us. We have some really good multi-sport athletes who haven’t played very long, led by Brooklynn Rupert, who have a ton of potential to make a difference in the near future as well.”

Concerns: “We have 48 kids on our team this year, so trying to find playing and practice time for everyone is definitely a challenge, but it is great that so many kids are interested in playing. We have about nine kids who are fighting for the final two doubles spots in our lineup. Those doubles spots will be an ongoing competition throughout the season. We play a really good state-wide schedule against teams like Abington Heights, Mount Lebanon, Conestoga Valley, Scranton Prep and Wyoming Seminary. We will definitely be challenged.”

Overall outlook: “I am very excited for the upcoming season. I am really proud of the amount of work and effort that our kids have put in since last year. They are extremely coachable and are getting better every day. I think that we have the potential of having a really good season and have a goal of winning the District 6 championship this year. This has been a really fun group of girls to work with. I am very blessed to have such a great group of players and coaches in our program.”

Assistant coaches: Mark Sapita, Adam Redinger (volunteer)

Bedford

Coach: Deb Rose, fourth year

Last year’s record: 9-5

Conference: Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference

Returning starters: Emily Ruhlman, sr.; Josie Shuke, soph.; Jenna Poorbaugh, jr.; Brooke Yarnall, soph.

Other returners: None

Newcomers: Abby Weyandt, jr.; Breanna Smith, fr.; Emily Casalena, fr.; Claudia Barnes, sr.; Carina Haines, fr.; Frida Canal, jr.; Harmony Fetterman, jr.; Josie Lynch, fr.; Arianna Wullschlaeger, fr.; Liz Harclerode, fr.

Strengths: “Our No. 1 singles player, Emily Ruhlman, is a major strength. She is a senior with a lot of experience — she’s the (reigning) District 5 champ, and she’s gone to states. And Josie Shuke, even though she’s a 10th grader, she and her sister won district doubles last year. Jenna Poorbaugh has one year of experience, and Brooke Yarnall will be playing her second year of doubles. The rest of the players are new to the program and working hard to improve.”

Concerns: “Our overall inexperience. We’re very young — it’s a major part of our team.”

Overall outlook: “We mostly want to improve, learn, have fun and hopefully be contenders in districts. A major individual goal for Emily Ruhlman will be to win another district singles title.”

Assistant coach: Jim Kegg

Bishop Guilfoyle

Coach: Julie Donovan, second year

Career record: 10-11

Last year’s record: 10-11

Conference: Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference

Returning starters: Elena Durbin, sr.; Reese Jones, sr.; Sarah Manna, sr.; Erin Talko, soph.; Madison Hooper, soph.; Marisa Hooper, soph.

Other returners: Amelia Morning, sr.; Julia Runk, jr.

Newcomers: Nicole Himes, jr.; Angela Durbin, soph.; Leah Homan, soph.; Erin Himes, soph.

Strengths: “All three singles and two doubles teams can be filled by returning players. We have strong depth with the rest of the team, including the newcomers. Most of the players have been taking clinics or tournament play during the summer.”

Concerns: “None.”

Overall outlook: “I am looking forward to our season. They have improved so much in just the first week. We are fortunate to play most of our home matches at Penn State Altoona. We have terrific parental support, which makes my job easier. We should be very competitive in our league (Laurel Highlands) and District 6. I know the girls will have a great season and a lot of fun.”

Assistant coach: Diane Hayes

Central

Coach: John Riley, 13th year

Career record: 85-82

Last year’s record: 6-7 overall, 4-2 Mountain League

Conference: Mountain League

Returning starters: Kierra Mountain, sr.; Lindsey Kensinger, sr.; Aleah Trueman, sr.; Allison Brooks, sr.

Other returners: Reagan Bush, sr.; Kaylee McClain, sr.; Ariadne Madden, jr.; Miranda Madden, jr.; Tomi May, soph.; Violet Smith, soph.

Newcomers: Ellen Kennedy, jr.; Morgan Kennedy, soph.; Adacyn James, fr.; Annabel Shippey, fr.

Strengths: “Four returning senior singles starters from last year. Hard-working group of girls striving to improve their tennis games.”

Concerns: “Lost a lot of volunteer summer court time due to weather and courts being worked on for a month. Not as consistent and far along as we usually are at this time, but this is a great group of girls and I am sure they will be ready once matches start. We have three tough matches the first week of the season.”

Overall outlook: “The girls hope to be in the mix for the Mountain League title and hopefully qualify for the District 6 team playoffs.”

Assistant coaches: Heidi Stern, Brian Berkhimer, Meggie Stern

Central Cambria

Coach: Kim Cavalier, fourth year

Career record: 43-10

Last year’s record: 18-1

Conference: Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference

Returning starters: Sam Archangelo, sr.; Rachel Holtz, sr.; Emma Ratchford, sr.; Olivia Ratchford, jr.; Corrine Markovich, soph.

Other returners: Sara Patrick, sr.; Lilly Persio, jr.; Lauren Vermuelin, jr.; Andie McCullough, soph.

Newcomers: Lauren Sauka, soph.; Rylee Baxter, fr.; Madison Farabaugh, fr.; Julia Hoffman, fr.; Jessica Lian, fr.; Sarah Beth Mish, fr.; Ella Persio, fr.; Grace Wolf, fr.

Strengths: “All Devil starters are seasoned players and have been competing and playing throughout the offseason. We ended last year with one loss, which was the type of match that could have gone either way, and luck was not on our side that day. That left a strong desire for a District 6 comeback this year. The team is extremely positive about the season and excited to get the matches started. The players are determined and willing to put in the time and effort needed to once again be first in D6.”

Concerns: “As I’ve said in the past, my biggest concern would be injuries. Keeping the team healthy and strong throughout the season is always an issue. We’ve had some injuries during the offseason, so my main goal is to keep the girls healthy and injury free.”

Overall outlook: “The Central Cambria Lady Devil tennis family is excited to start the season. We believe we have a chance to bring the D6 trophy back to Ebensburg.”

Assistant coaches: Paula Smeal

Chestnut Ridge

Coach: Becky Musselman, 15th year

Last year’s record: 0-15

Conference: Laurel Highlands Athletic Conference

Returning starters: Hannah Smith, sr.; Cortnie Weaver, sr.; Ashley Barnes, jr.; Sarah Webb, jr.; Delana Kissell, soph.

Other returners: Kaitlyn Ickes, soph.; Alecsis Mowry, soph.

Strengths: “All of our starters are coming back. They’re doing much better than last year. They’ve looked good at practice.”

Concerns: “The low numbers, especially if we get someone hurt.”

Overall outlook: “Our goal is to see improvement from the first match to the last. The Laurel Highlands is tough competition.”

Assistant coach: Keith Fleegle

Hollidaysburg

Coach: Brian Denis, 18th year

Career record: 469-102

Last year’s record: 19-2

Conference: None

Returning starters: None

Other returners: Jennifer Lasek, jr.; Madeline Waibel, soph.; Ella Jodon, soph.; Lydia Lieb, jr.; Jocelyn Pandolph, sr.; Talia Delerme, soph.; Alana Stultz, soph.; Ava Sheetz, soph.; Lana Pope, soph.; Averie Holtz, sr.; Chloe Holtz, soph.; Lauren Imler, sr.; Olivia Day, sr.; Lydia Um, soph.

Newcomers: Gretta Rhodes, fr.; Seddy Clapper, fr.; Rachel Gallagher, fr.; Ella Rabel, fr.; Emily Snyder, fr.; Bela Pequinot, jr.; Alhana Davis, jr.

Strengths: “We have a hard-working group of girls who are extremely eager to learn and pick up things rather quickly. They genuinely like each other and work well together.”

Concerns: “Zero returning starters. Lack of varsity experience. Trying to find singles players who have mostly played nothing but doubles. We lost an unbelievable amount of senior leadership due to graduation. Very difficult schedule. Convincing the girls that regardless of the results, they are improving each and every day.”

Overall outlook: “Never before have we been hit this hard with players not returning. Between graduation, transfers and kids deciding not to play, we are an entirely new team. However, we will not back down from challenges. We will continue to play the best competition and travel all over the state. I can promise you that we will compete every single moment we are on the court, and we will be a tremendously better team by the end of the season. Many might consider this a rebuild mode, but I think we are going to surprise some people this year. The faces may be different, but our goal to sustain a standard of excellence, on and off the court, will never change. When district championship time rolls around, we expect to be in the mix for our fifth straight title and 10th title in the last 11 years.”

Assistant coach: None

Huntingdon

Coach: Bill Wheeler, third year

Career record: 4-20

Last year’s record: 2-11

Conference: Mountain League

Returning starters: Julia Thompson, sr.

Other returners: Alaine Albaugh, soph.; Carly McKellop, soph.

Newcomers: Audrey Wilson, soph.

Overall outlook: “To continue developing the skills and attitude needed to be competitive.”

Assistant coach: None

Tyrone

Coach: Randy Irvin, eighth year

Career record: 56-108

Last year’s record: 8-5 overall, 6-0 Mountain League

Conference: Mountain League

Returning starters: Winnie Grot, sr.; Olivia Reese, sr.; Lindsey Walk, sr.; Emilee Walk, sr.

Other returners: Alicia Endress, sr.; Megan Dale, sr.; Lydia Irvin, soph.; Victoria Reese, soph.; Isabella Rhoades, soph.; Ashlee Walk, soph.; Grace Rose, soph.; Rachel Stricek, soph.

Newcomers: Lexus Weaver, soph.; Rilee Barndt, soph.; Sarah Butina, fr.; Emily Dale, fr.; Ashlynn McKinney, fr.

Strengths: “We have four out of the top six players from last year returning for our team. We have a very athletic and hard-working group of girls.”

Concerns: “Our biggest concern is getting the girls ample court time because our first match is Wednesday.”

Overall outlook: “We are excited to get out and play some other schools.”

Assistant coach: Jim Klesius

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