PG North: With veteran squad back, Hampton expecting a net gain on the courts
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The Hampton High School girls' tennis team is in the same section it was in last season -- tough Section 2-AAA -- and has largely the same cast of characters in the starting lineup, with a couple notable exceptions.
But the Talbots have every reason to believe the results this season won't be the same. They plan on being better.
"I think my team is stronger this year than it was last year," Talbots coach Colleen Geyer said. "We have a new sophomore playing No. 2 singles and everyone else improved a lot from last year.
"We're hoping to make [the WPIAL playoffs] this year."
Hampton wasn't a bad team last season by a long shot; the Talbots finished a solid 12-7 overall and were a respectable 7-7 in section play. But they did not qualify for postseason play. That has been a motivating factor for the team heading into this season.
"That's our goal, to make the playoffs," said Geyer, who has been Hampton's coach for more than two decades. "We're in a very tough section, but we have a strong lineup, all seven of them."
That strength starts at the top, with a player who said part of what is driving her to improve is to help get Hampton into the playoffs. Junior Morgan Johnstonbaugh played second singles last season but was bumped up to first singles this fall.
"She practiced a lot throughout the winter, and she's really improved," Geyer said. "She's worked very hard on her game, training. She's just very consistent, just like a backboard. She gets everything back and she has a lot of different shots. This year, she has both power and finesse. Last year she didn't have that."
Johnstonbaugh has, in her own words, "gotten more serious" about her tennis in recent years. She trains at Lakevue Athletic Club in Valencia and is playing in more tournaments, including those sanctioned by the USTA.
"I've been just really dedicating a lot of my time to tennis to try to make a good effort to kind of show the other girls they can improve at something if they work hard," Johnstonbaugh said. "And I know I have to improve my game because I want to play in college and my [Lakevue] coaches make it known often that I have lots of improvements to make to do that. I'm also working hard for Mrs. Geyer, because she wants a winning team."
The most notable addition to the team is sophomore Katherine Chen, who is in her first season on the team and is playing second singles.
"Down the road you'll see her improve a lot," Geyer said. "She's tall and she gets to the ball. She gets everything back and has all the shots."
Third singles is filled by sophomore Ellen Murray, who played doubles last season. Senior Jennifer Arnold and junior Jessica Holden form a strong first doubles pairing. They have a history of playing together as a team.
Seniors Brittney Schmidt and Leanne Sherred form what Geyer said is "a very strong No. 2 doubles team" for Hampton, which has a new assistant coach this season in Grant McKinney.
The Talbots (4-1 overall, 3-1 in section play) are in the midst of an important week in terms of their playoff hopes. They defeated Butler Area, 4-1, Tuesday and are scheduled to play North Hills today, also at home.
Those are the two teams with whom Hampton expects to be in a dogfight for the third available playoff spot in the section, assuming North Allegheny and Pine-Richland claim the first two, as expected.
"We're in a really hard section with North Allegheny and Pine-Richland, but I think our biggest rivals are Butler and North Hills, so we're shooting to beat them," Johnstonbaugh said.
"We're really working hard. All the singles players are strong, and doubles, too. We just have a really strong team all the way around. We have a really good chance at going to the playoffs."
First Published September 4, 2008 12:00 am