At the close of most tennis seasons, Conestoga tennis coach Fran Tomaselli typically has to bid farewell to her senior class that has touched her and left their mark in their own unique way while hopefully paving the way for the underclassmen who are ready to take the reins.
Last season was no different with the loss of Kaylee Yan (first singles), Lindsay Taffe (first doubles), Chrissy Walton (third doubles) and Katie Ryan (fourth doubles) due to graduation leaving senior tri-captains Hannah Ashton, Nour Elkassabany and Julia Herman ready to lead and leave their mark similar to their predecessors.
“Each senior class brings its own personality and interests into the program and is also aware of the success that Conestoga has had in the past,” Tomaselli said. “Our goal is to perform up to our abilities and have fun doing it. Our seniors are expected to take a leadership role in accomplishing that.”
With the loss of many key seniors and the influx of youth coming into the school, Tomaselli knew the senior leadership would be important with her team facing an always-challenging schedule within the Central League as well as outside the league.
With the way the Central League schedule was structured combined with the way the seniors brought everyone together as one, the Pioneers bonded quickly and came through what could be the toughest part of their league schedule unscathed registering wins over Lower Merion, Harriton and most recently Radnor over a two-week span to earn the inside track to a seventh consecutive Central League crown.
“The seniors have been very important to our early season success,” said freshman Cassidy Landau, who plays No. 1 singles. “They organize activities to make everyone feel welcome. We have buddy bags where we get small treats for another player; we have spirit days to get ready for big matches and we also had a pasta dinner during pre-season so we have a chance to get to know everyone. Without their support along with the rest of my teammates I am not sure I would be this relaxed and playing so well.”
“It means a lot,” said Ashton, referring to Landau’s comments about the seniors on the team. “We try to make everyone feel welcome and that there is a lot of team camaraderie. We have a close knit team and I believe that is key to our success.”
Tomaselli added, “The senior tri-captains were chosen at last year’s banquet and they started organizing a spring car wash and helped pick out our uniforms. The team has quickly come together under their leadership, but also with the help of all of our seniors on the team.”
While Tomaselli knew youth would be served on the ladder the one thing she did not realize was it would occupy the top of the ladder with Landau playing No. 1 singles; sophomore Maddie Wood, who played No. 1 doubles last year before moving to No. 2 singles this year and freshman Ashley Griffith, who moved into the school district after spending the last couple of years in Tampa, FL.
The doubles line-up consists of sisters Nina and Julia Herman playing No. 1 doubles; Ashton and Elkassabany playing No. 2 doubles; Junior Sarah Aboseada and Freshman Priya Aravindhan playing No. 3 doubles and Sophomore Annie Burdick and Senior Simmona Coelho playing No. 4 doubles. However with the return of sophomore Amy Zhang the doubles line-up could change.
The sustained success Conestoga tennis has experienced does not come easy. For those who attend matches and see the camaraderie may not realize what happens behind the scenes.
“As much fun as we have there is a lot of responsibility that comes with it,” said Elkassabany. “As seniors we make sure to keep up the team spirit off the court and if the younger kids get to experience this at and early age it will only help Conestoga continue to get better in the years to come.”
Landau added, “I have already learned that I when I am a senior I want to treat the younger kids the way the seniors treated me. I really believe that helped me and I would not be playing like I am without them.”