Resilience Pays Off
A loss or other disappointments can shape a season.
The Abington Heights girls tennis team showed a resilient touch this year, going through the ending of a long league winning streak as well as not getting any players into the individual state tournaments.
But the Lady Comets rebounded well and nailed down both the Lackawanna League's Class AAA title and a fourth successive District 2 Class AAA team title to highlight another outstanding season for coach Tom Lavelle.
Abington Heights fell to arch-rival Scranton Prep, 3-2, snapping a 48-meet winning streak against league competition, but that setback on Friday, Sept. 13, wound up setting the tone for the rest of the season.
"It was a great match between two good programs. It was very close," Lavelle said. "Our team came back very strong after the loss to capture a fourth straight district title. If anything, it served to refocus our efforts."
The Lady Comets bounced back to win the rest of their matches to post a 14-1 record and earn the top seed for the district playoffs.
"In many ways the team exceeded my expectations," Lavelle said. "Our team was able to come back from a loss to Scranton Prep, and from the singles and doubles district tournaments where we didn't get to qualify any players for states, to earn our fourth consecutive district team title and second consecutive advancement to the quarterfinals of team states."
The time between individual districts and team districts grew in importance without having any players chasing state titles individually.
"The practices our team had after singles and doubles districts leading into team states," Lavelle said. "Our team leaders established a tone at practice that was characterized by a lot of determination and hard work, as well as setting high expectations for the remainder of the season."
Top singles player Tyra Abdalla captured the district title in singles again, dominating local competition.
"Tyra performed above expectation coming back from a tough three-set loss against Maggie Manchester from Williamsport in the finals of the singles district tournament to win a rematch against her in the final of team districts and help lead our team to the team title," Lavelle said. "She also won her match in the first round of team states."
In addition to the standout junior, there was plenty of praise to go around.
"Our number one doubles team of Katie Decker and Rachel Smertz had an undefeated regular season and undefeated team districts," Lavelle said. "They also contributed a major point for our team in our 3-2 win [over Exeter] in the first round of team states. They were such an important part of our team's success. They were a team that we knew we could rely on to get us a point. They also lost a very close match in the quarterfinals of states."
Doubles was a strength all season for the Lady Comets.
"Our Number 2 doubles team of Jessica Rickwood and Catherine Pusateri stepped up for us in first round of team states as well as in team districts," Lavelle said.
All but Decker, a senior, will return next season as Smertz and Rickwood were juniors while Pusateri was a freshman.
Senior Cierra Beck was solid at second singles for the Lady Comets.
"Cierra Beck is a great team captain and had a great season as our number two singles player," Lavelle said. "She had only one loss in the league and helped us reach the finals of team districts with a big win in the semifinals. Her dedication to the team will be missed."
Sophomore Caroline Mattise made great strides this year at number three singles.
"This was her first year starting in singles. As a sophomore, she showed a lot of potential and gained a lot of experience," Lavelle said. "We are looking for her to be an impact player in future seasons."
Once again, the future looks bright with Abdalla, Mattise and three of the four primary doubles players back.
"We hope to be competitive and continue the successes of prior seasons," Lavelle said. "We know the league and districts will be competitive, so we will need to put in a lot of hard work. We have some spots to fill in the lineup but have many talented athletes who are up to the task."