Girls' Tennis: Improving junior at TJ adds depth
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With its top two singles players and an experienced doubles team returning from last season's WPIAL qualifier, Thomas Jefferson figured to be a highly competitive team this year.
But with the improvement of junior Samantha Moss, the Jaguars have gone from projected playoff team to strong section title contender.
"Our goal is to make the playoffs, but I would love to win the section [championship]," said longtime Thomas Jefferson coach Chuck Correll Sr.
Anna Boger was the team's No. 1 singles player last year and is a four-year starter. Caitlyn Monroe has played for the Jaguars for three years and was the team's No. 2 singles player in 2010. But both have been pushed back to No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, because of the emergence of Moss.
Like many high school tennis teams, Thomas Jefferson uses a challenge system during the summer to determine the ranking of its players. In the system, the lower-ranked players have to earn their way up the ladder by beating the players on their team ranked in front of them. Moss started the summer as Thomas Jefferson's No. 8 player, but went 9-0 in challenges to earn the team's top spot.
"She really came out of nowhere, but she's a beast ... and I mean that in a polite way," Correll said. "She's relentless on the court. She refuses to lose and runs down every ball. It's really fun to watch."
Her ascent has strengthened the team's depth. It allowed Boger, a WPIAL tournament qualifier in doubles last year, and Monroe to each drop down one spot in the order, where they have more of an advantage over their opponents.
"It makes us more competitive," Correll said. "It's big having Samantha at No. 1. It makes a better overall team."
The Jaguars also have an experienced doubles team in seniors Kristen Pavlik and Jaime Liptak. This is the third season the duo has played together and Correll believes they have a good chance of advancing to the WPIAL tournament this season.
At No. 2 doubles, the Jaguars are sending out Olivia Joyce and Alex Bartosch. The tandem is in its first year playing together, but that hasn't stopped them from dominating the competition early on this season.
"They have been a surprise," Correll said. "No one has come close to them in a match yet. They are fearless at the net. If they were boys, they'd be hockey goaltenders."
Thomas Jefferson's depth has already been tested this season, with illnesses to a few of its singles players. But the team's No. 8 player, sophomore Kalei Trbovich, stepped in at No. 3 singles in each of the team's first three matches and helped the team stay undefeated.
The Jaguars were tied atop the Section 5-AA standings with defending section champion South Park after four matches. The teams don't meet until the last match of both rounds of the section's double round-robin schedule. The first meeting will be Monday.
In addition to matching the section's top two teams, it will also be a family feud. South Park's coach is Correll's son, Chuck Jr.
"We call it the Pizza Wars," said the elder Correll. "The losing coach has to buy the other coach's family a pizza.
"I really love it. There's no animosity between us. You can only do so much as coach. So if your team has a bad day and you lose, it's just your turn to buy the pizza."
Correll Sr. had to buy two pizzas last fall, as the Eagles beat the Jaguars twice by the score of 3-2.
If the Jaguars want to reach their coach's goal of winning the section title, they will have to reverse the results this season.
First Published September 7, 2012 12:00 am