Girls' Tennis: Hard work paying off for Knoch's Pivaronas
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While Knoch's girls tennis team was cruising to an 11-1 record in the 3-AA section last season, Patricia Pivaronas watched from the sidelines.
Despite being just a sophomore on a senior-laden Knights team, Pivaronas still became agitated by sitting on the bench.
"It was frustrating," Pivaronas said. "I love tennis and always want to play."
With the Knights' top five players having graduated in the spring, Pivaronas is now getting her chance. A junior, she is the team's No. 1 singles player this fall after working hard in the offseason.
"She really put in the work during the summer," said Knoch coach Kenny Nieser. "She's much more confident and consistent this year."
Pivaronas, along with the Knights' No. 2 singles player, Alice Gordon, spent the summer playing in tournaments at Frick Park against some of the better competition in the area. Pivaronas didn't win a match, but she said the experience of playing against top-level players helped her improve.
She showed that improvement to Nieser and the rest of the Knights during preseason workouts, earning the team's top spot. It was an anointment that was important to Pivaronas.
"It felt really great," Pivaronas said. "I took it very seriously and it meant so much to me. Now I just need to keep getting better to stay at the top."
One of the main reasons for a speedy rise from the bench to the top spot is the speed she displays on the court.
"She runs like a deer," Nieser said. "She runs down a lot of balls. She gets a very good first jump."
Pivaronas' speed and agility comes from her sprinting background. A junior, she is a 100- and 300-meter hurdler for the Knights' track team. That training not only helps her quickness, but also her endurance.
"I'm used to exceeding my exhaustion point," Pivaronas said. "Even late in matches, I'm trying to run everything down."
Nieser doesn't believe that effort will stop despite the fact Knoch is in the midst of a tough season. Due to the heavy attrition as a result of graduation, it was already expected to be a rebuilding year for the Knights. But the job was made tougher with the move from Class AA to AAA.
Now the Knights are in a section with three 2011 WPIAL AAA quarterfinalists -- North Allegheny, Pine Richland and Mars.
It's a tough transition, but one that Nieser thinks will make Pivaronas and the rest of the Knights better in the future.
"It's a great opportunity," Nieser said. "There are some good teams in AA, but you aren't facing a good team every time. Now we are and I think it will be better for them as long as they don't get down."
Her position in the lineup, along with being a junior on a young team, means Pivaronas is one of the players the Knights look to for guidance in tough times.
"We just have to keep cheering the girls on and try and keep everyone's spirits up," Pivaronas said. "It's a lot harder this year. It's easy to get psyched out when you're losing most of the time. But we need to remember that we're playing the best of the best and it will help us get better."
First Published September 7, 2012 12:00 am