By Luke Mich
Thanks to a strong opening, the women’s tennis team managed to improve from last year, having just concluded their 2019 fall season.
Because of this, head Coach Brian Niemiec stated that he views the season as a success.
“[The team] surpassed our win total from last year. They’ve outperformed my expectations,” he said.
Niemiec also said that they didn’t lose a non-conference match this season, “a big step up from last year.”
“We have had some marquee wins. We’ve beaten a Division II team [California University of PA] earlier this year, and we’ve had continued dominance over local teams such as Pitt-Greensburg and Penn State-Altoona,” Niemiec stated.
The team started out hot this season, winning five of their six matches in route to an 8-5 regular season finish. Additionally, their home record was strong, losing only two of the seven matches played at home on the Saint Vincent courts.
Coach Niemiec, who became head coach for the women’s team last year, said that there were no drastic changes from last year that led to the improvement other than adapting to the athletes’ demands on what they need to improve on.
Katherine Palko, senior and a leader for the team, agrees.
“Brian let us set our own goals. For example, as a team, we wanted to work out more and condition, [which] we did,” she said.
Livia Wentworth, another senior team leader, explained that Coach Niemiec and assistant coach Kim Kissell helped improve the team by training each player individually as well as altogether to improve on skills.
“Both coaches also supported the team at matches by encouraging players or by giving us tips on how to hit an opponent’s weakness or fix a skill [that] a player’s not doing correctly,” Wentworth stated.
Both Wentworth and Palko stated that the team chemistry was strong.
“I definitely appreciate how we all support each other: we cheer, we motivate, we help each other out. It’s a dynamic that is always, always improving,” Wentworth said.
Although the season ended on Oct. 23 with a playoff loss to Geneva, the team’s outlook for the near future is bright, Niemiec said.
Both freshmen players, Angela Popovich and Abby Jo Stull, impressed both the coaches and teammates, he said.
Niemiec said that Popovich “exceeded expectations.”
Palko, who played doubles with Stull, stated that Stull and herself “complemented playing styles well.”
Wentworth stated that the freshmen players were “a great addition to the team and helped [them] in both doubles and singles,” also saying that she believes the team will do well next year.
“Next year the team should do as well or better than this year as the underclassmen are talented and have great work ethic, and the coaches will be back to improve and support the team,” she stated.