The Chester County high school girls’ tennis scene returns a strong crop of players this fall, including the 2019 Daily Local News Player of the Year, Conestoga junior Ananya Krishnan, as well as four of the five players selected to the 2019 Daily Local News all-area first team for singles – Conestoga junior Leena Kwak, Downingtown West sophomore Tanya Pant, Unionville senior Leah Walter and West Chester Henderson junior Ella Tunnell.
Krishnan enjoyed a memorable sophomore campaign – in her first season as the Pioneers’ No. 1, she was the Central League singles champion, finished third at the District 1 tournament, qualified for a PIAA Class 3A berth and won a first-round state match in Hershey.
“What I admire most about Ananya is that she is kind to everyone she plays, whether she is winning or losing,” said Conestoga girls tennis head coach Brittany Aimone. “Ananya is gracious in defeat and modest in victory. She is very humble.”
Kwak reached the District 1 quarterfinals last fall, where she — like Unionville’s Walter — lost to eventual champion Amelia Honer. Kwak won the fifth-place match at Districts, then was victorious in a first-round state doubles match with Olivia Dodge.
“Leena is fierce, but full of grace,” said Aimone. “She fights for every point, whether it be the first point of the match, or match point in the third set.”
Pant won a first-round match at district singles last fall, and helped the Whippets reach the finals in the Class 3A state team tournament.
“Tanya is one of our hardest off-season workers,” said D-West tennis coach Justin DePietropaolo. “She puts in the hours on the practice court and at USTA tournaments.”
Walter advanced all the way to the District 1 Class 3A semifinals before falling to eventual champion and top seed Amelia Honer of Council Rock North. Walter finished fourth after falling in the consolation match to Krishnan, then won her opening match at the state tournament, and helped Unionville win a first-round match in the team tournament.
Tunnell, a junior, captured the Ches-Mont National Division singles championship as a sophomore last fall, and teamed with senior Lauren Knopp to claim the doubles crown as well. She won her first-round match at Districts in three tough sets before falling in the second round.
Here’s a look at area high school girls’ tennis teams based on information provided to the Daily Local News by the respective teams:
Avon Grove will be led by senior co-captain Abby Condliffe at first singles (which she played last fall) and senior co-captain Amber Hayward.
Conestoga has a couple of other fine players in addition to Ananya Krishnan and Leena Kwak – junior Felicia Manful and sophomore Bella Chen. Pioneers head coach Brittany Aimone said, “Felicia has this quiet focus that is super admirable. She is committed to getting better and is very determined in her growth. Bella is an amazing team player. She is always uplifting everyone’s spirits and has such a positive attitude that makes everyone feel comfortable around her.”
Downingtown East has a deep crop of seniors, led by Kaitlyn Fisher at first singles. At doubles, the Cougars are led by Julia Congiliari, Sowmya Vemulapalli, Shreeya Pinumalla, Nithika Menon and Saroor Dhanju.
For Downingtown West, sophomore Tanya Pant is backed by a strong Whippet squad that includes junior Sophia Koons. “Sophia is the definition of grit,” said DePietropaolo. “She just finds a way to win, whether it’s grinding it out at the baseline or putting the ball away at the net.” Another key Whippet is senior Siya Sehgal, who had played first doubles all season long, but was ineligible to play in the postseason due to a cross-school district move from Downingtown East. The Whippets lost 3-2 in the state final, and two of the D-West girls who won a doubles match in the final are returning, junior Alyssa Dehart and senior Kaitlyn Pacheco.
Great Valley will be led by senior captain Brooke Oberly, in her third year at first singles. She received second team Daily Local News all-area honors in singles last fall, and advanced to district doubles for the second year in a row. Great Valley head coach Gerry McGrath said, “As a person, Brooke is what you want your child to be. She puts the team first, makes sure that all feel welcome to the team, is responsible, personable, coachable. Her parents have done a great job. We will miss her after this season!”
Kennett, which made it to the second round in Districts last fall, returns four-year varsity senior Emma Schmidt at No. 1 doubles. Kennett coach John Howanski said, “Emma’s tennis game translates well in doubles because she very good at volleying, aggressive with her groundstrokes and is a great team player.” Two experienced sophomores, Anna Jiang and Lily Lusvardi, will lead the Blue Demons’ singles group.
Villa Maria Academy, which posted a 10-4 record last fall, is returning Monica Morys (11-3 at singles in 2019). Villa Maria head coach Amy Holzapfel said, “Monica has a strong work ethic and the ability to push herself both mentally and physically.” Other Hurricanes to watch include juniors Kylie Kemminer and Amanda Seneca.
West Chester Henderson lost several key players due to graduation last spring, but returns Ella Tunnell as well as junior Sophia Ming, senior Nancy McSwain and senior Anna Dinacci. Henderson coach Peter Sok said, “We are a very inexperienced team and we hope to be competitive in our league this fall.”
West Chester Rustin seniors Ana Petrosky and Natalia Bula will hold the 1 and 2 singles spots for the Golden Knights while freshman Maya Tashie has taken the 3 singles position.