|Upper Perk first singles player Kim Kachmar watches theball as she prepares the return the volley during play in the team's firstPAC-10 match of the season against Perk Valley.
Not surprisingly, the rebuilding Upper Perkiomen girls tennis team got their season off to a rough start with losses on Monday and Tuesday to North Penn and Perkiomen Valley.
Under third year coach John Williamson, the team is working on replacing nine graduated varsity starters from a 7-5 team last fall. And there are only two seniors, co-captains Chrissy Patton and Melinda Miley, on this season’s squad to help ease the growing pains.
“I want the girls to focus on improving their individual skills, and not as much on our win/loss record, since most of our players are new to the varsity lineup. If the girls work hard, compete and have fun, it will be a successful season,” Williamson said.
Patton concurred with her coach, “This year, a major team goal is to steadily better our tennis skills, striving to improve in at least one area per day.”
Miley, who is teaming with junior Anna Barndt at third doubles, added, “For our team I think our goals are just to go into every match ready to put up a strong fight and try our best. By the end of the season, our main concern won't be the number of matches we've won, but how hard we tried and how much we've all improved.”
Against Perk Valley, Miley, a lefthander, and Barndt took their opponents to three sets, dropping a 1-6, 6-4, 2-6 decision to Abena Aggree and Jordan Bear.
Williamson went into the season with a patient, realistic approach and views last week’s scrimmages and matches this week as baby steps in the right direction.
“Our scrimmages have allowed us to sort out the lineup and get the girls some much-needed match experience. With so many of the girls being new to playing at the varsity level, it will take several matches to get comfortable.”
Last year’s fourth doubles team, junior Kim Kachmar and sophomore Mandie Tyrpak, are trying to make the huge leap to first and second singles respectively. Williamson noted that both have made “significant progress” in developing their tennis skills.
Tyrpak waged a spirited battle against Perk Valley’s Hannah Toombs on Monday, winning the first set 6-2 but dropping the next two 2-6, 0-6.
“Kim Kachmar, Mandie Tyrpak, and Heather Danishanko, who are all playing singles for the first time,…consistently work hard at every practice and always give their best effort,” said Miley.
Other spots in the line-up include Danishanko (junior, third singles), Erika Cox (junior, first singles with Patton), Megan Quinn and Sarah Kramer (sophs, second doubles), Kate Allebach and Suzy Hewitt (juniors, fourth doubles).
Another obstacle to Williamson’s efforts to grow a competitive team is the strength of the PAC-10 this season.
“Methacton returns two of the best individual players in the league, but there will be other teams that should be able to challenge them in a best-of-seven match, such as Spring-Ford, Phoenixville and Perkiomen Valley,” said Williamson, a business teacher at the high school.
Veterans Miley and Patton are taking their leadership roles very seriously as they try to guide their younger teammates through potentially difficult times.
Miley stated, “As both a senior and a captain, I hope to just try to accept certain responsibilities and help us not just be a tennis team, but also friends.”
“I've been more conscious of the importance of being a leader. I try to provide leadership by leading by example and accepting responsibility for a variety of things,” Patton said.
“I think that our team is lucky to have a coach like Mr. Williamson. He's patient, helpful, and is always pushing us to try as hard as we can. He's really helping all of us improve individually and as an entire team,” added Miley.