SENIOR WEEKS: Conestoga’s Walton tries to look ahead after tennis season disappears

The Conestoga boys’ tennis team, which advanced to the PIAA Class 3A team quarterfinals last spring, was looking to make another run at a state title this year, led by the talents of senior captain Matt Walton.

Walton posted a 14-6 record at first singles as a junior last year, received first team All-Central League singles honors and made his third appearance in the PIAA Class 3A singles tournament.

Conestoga boys’ tennis head coach Brittany Aimone said, “The moment I met Matt as a freshman, I was immediately impressed by his confidence, maturity, and positivity. During his four years with me, there has never been a day that he was on the tennis court where he wasn’t pushing himself to get better each time. He has outstanding determination and work ethic, taking on any challenge presented to him with a big smile. His positivity, perseverance and high energy inspires everyone around him, most notably myself.”

Walton and his Pioneer tennis teammates were looking for big things in 2020.

“As a team, the goals we set for ourselves have less to do with the outcomes of tournaments and matches and are more centered around taking the steps necessary to succeed,” said Walton. “Things like preparing well for matches, giving nothing but 100 percent effort, and staying mentally strong are core values to the team and we know that if we can achieve these goals that we set for ourselves, that the results will follow.

“With that being said, many of us did have our sights set on the state title, knowing it was well within our reach. A lot of my attention in the off-season went towards improving my physical fitness and getting stronger, which did mean sacrificing some time on the court in order to get in the gym more often, but it definitely made a big difference to my game overall.”

The PIAA spring sports season, which was put on hold in mid-March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was officially cancelled by the PIAA on April 9.

“The end of this [season] has been extremely difficult for the entire senior class for so many different reasons,” said Walton. “It’s obviously most important to take the necessary precautions with things as serious as this pandemic, but it is truly heartbreaking that this one last ride I and the senior players were looking forward to is being taken away.

“Until it was confirmed [April 9] that the season was officially off, I just tried to connect with guys on the team to keep hopes and spirits high in the event that we did return.”

One thing Walton will be able to take from his Conestoga tennis career is a flock of great memories, such as in 2018, when the Pioneers defeated Lower Merion in their final regular-season match of the year to win the Central League title.

“It’s such a fierce rivalry that we have with Lower Merion, and our matches with them are always ultra-competitive, so to come out on top at such a crucial time meant everything to us,” said Walton.

Walton’s favorite tennis player is Denis Shapovalov.

“He’s a young guy who’s not much older than I am, and he’s taking down some of the top players in the world,” said Walton. “We have similar game styles – we both use our big serves and forehands as weapons, like to play aggressive, and really go for our shots.”

Walton got his start in tennis at a young age.

“My mom was the first person to get me to play tennis — she played tennis growing up too and continued into adulthood,” said Walton. “When I was 5, she signed me up for my first clinics and I kept playing until I eventually started competing in USTA tournaments which is when my interest really took off.”

Off the court, Walton has been a member of Conestoga Young Republicans since his freshman year, and he is also a member of the school’s fishing club. He plans to major in business in college.

“I also have an interest in cars and everything automotive, so I would love to one day have a career in which I can apply what I learn in college to a passion like cars,” said Walton.

For the remainder of his senior year, Walton is doing his schoolwork from home, as is every other Pennsylvania high school student.

“Our classes have continued online, and assignments, though not graded, have continued leading into spring break,” said Walton. “Teachers have made an effort to stay connected with students through phone calls or online ‘office hours.’ For the final marking period, each class will have a short quiz everyday about that day’s material and classes will be pass/fail. It hasn’t been ideal, but teachers and students alike are staying positive, working hard and making the most of the situation.”

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