CLARKS SUMMIT — Despite losing its top player to graduation and adjusting to a new coaching staff, Abington Heights girls tennis, the defending District 2 Class 3A team champions, are poised for another successful season.
Caroline Mattise, a senior, advanced to the semifinals of the District 2 Class 3A singles tournament last season. Junior Catherine Pusateri played on the number-one doubles team last year and may transition to singles competition. Ajna Prahalad and Sondra Lionetti, both seniors, teamed to win a match in the district doubles tournament last season.
Seniors Rachael Muir and Carolyn Hickman, and sophomore Lauren Carroll return to the team and seeing some time on the court last season. Sophomore Savannah Blaum, junior Macy Marturano, and seniors Sydney Schilpp and Abby Gilman will also compete for playing time.
First-year head coach Kelly Arp believes consistency and discipline will be the biggest keys to the team’s success.
“I’m really excited that they’re a big group of girls that know how to play tennis and are excited about competing,” Arp said. “I love working with students and I’m excited about seeing them grow and develop. I’ve seen a lot of players improve a lot over a season and I’m excited to see that for these girls.”
Arp, who previously coached tennis for nine years between the men’s and women’s teams at Baptist Bible College, now Summit University, hopes her deep love of the game will inspire the players to continue playing after their high school days.
“I love playing tennis, and I think it’s great because all the skills they learn during high school, they’re going to take with them for the rest of their lives,” she said. “Wherever they go, they can be part of the tennis community.”
The Lady Comets must replace key members of last year’s squad, who all graduated, in Tyra Abdalla, Rachel Smertz, and Jessica Rickwood, but Arp believes the team has quality players who can step in and contribute.
“I think it’s going to be a deep team,” she said. “I think we’ll have good players with experience at all the (starting) spots. The girls are enthusiastic and really want to win.”
Arp replaces Tom Lavelle, who announced his resignation after seven “very meaningful” seasons, coaching the girls team.
“It was a truly difficult decision, but at the end of the day raising a 2-year-old son, Declan, and being a husband to my wonderful wife, Ericka, nearly approaching five years, something unfortunately had to give,” Lavelle said. “I’m truly thankful for the opportunity to have coached the girls team over the better part of eight years.”
Abington Heights will travel to face Montrose on Monday, Aug. 24 in its first Lackawanna League match.
Arp and assistant coach John Weiss pegged North Pocono, Scranton Prep and Wallenpauapck as the teams most likely to provide the toughest competition in Lackawanna League play.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.