Berwyn – Throughout Fran Tomaselli’s illustrious 40-year career as the Conestoga girls’ tennis coach it’s no secret that she preaches family.
While tennis is often viewed as an individualistic sport, Conestoga had several opportunities this season to display what has the made the program so successful throughout the years and how Coach Tomaselli’s message has been passed on.
For the past seven years, the winner of the Harriton-Conestoga match has been fortunate enough to go on and win the Central League crown. With last year’s match not decided until the final court finished, Tomaselli was expecting much of the same this year and she hoped that the family atmosphere she has fostered would pay dividends especially with her team suffering a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to West Chester Henderson to open the year.
This year, the Conestoga-Harriton match was held Sept. 8. With the score knotted at 3-3, Tomaselli signaled to sophomore Ashley Griffith that she would decide the match. After feeling like she had let her team down against Henderson dropping the deciding point, Griffith was determined not to have a repeat result.
“Against Henderson I did not know what the score of the match was and when I lost I felt like I had let my team down,” said Griffith following the match against Radnor. “So if the match was tied I wanted to know. I was tired and it was a long match so I wanted to use it as motivation.”
The plan worked to perfection as Griffith outlasted Harriton’s Sophia Sassoli 3-6, 7-6(8), 6-3 to give her team the win and the inside track on an eighth consecutive Central League title.
“The win over Harriton [Sept. 8] will probably be our biggest win of the season, as for the last seven seasons whichever team has won our match has gone on to win the league championship,” said Tomaselli. “This then gives the team automatic entry into the district tournament. We also knew that they have three excellent singles players, which makes it very difficult for other teams to beat them. That is why it so very important to have players believe in each other and realize that it takes more than three players to make a team. It doesn’t matter where you play on the team – first singles or third doubles, each match counts the same toward a total team victory. My players understand this concept and believe in each other!”
The Pioneers followed up their win over Harriton with a victory over Radnor Sept. 9 that was closer than the 6-1 final score indicated.
“This was an important week for us,” said Conestoga junior Maddie Wood, who clinched the win over Radnor with her straight set win over Jessica Lin from Radnor the day after she lost a tough match against Harriton’s Nina Hoog. “The entire team worked hard all week and we were super excited to win those matches.”
Entering the season with a young team can be challenging but proper veteran leadership can make all the difference. That certainly seems to be the case with this group.
Conveying the message that has been passed down to them are senior Sarah Aboseada and juniors Maddie Wood and Amy Zhang. Some bonding activities that take place include playing a name game the first day of pre-season to help get to know everyone along with spending time with each other prior to the match before its time to get down to business.
“Maddie and the older players stress that we play for each other and not just our self,” said Griffith. “We had a really good season last year and we hope to make a similar run this year.”
Once again the key will be their depth along with their singles players Griffith, Cassidy Landau at second singles and Wood gaining another year of experience.
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