Tunkhannock Area tennis coach Justin Muthler is pretty excited for this season.
According to the coach, the Lady Tigers are going to have talent at all grade levels for this fall.
“It will be interesting to watch the girls who take the steps forward to get into the starting lineup,” he said. “We have also five returners who started the vast majority of our matches last year, and I think seven with varsity experience.”
Muthler’s team only lost two seniors to graduation, and they both started mainly in doubles.
Though the team has a handful of players that did not return, the Tigers singles players from last year- Jillian Landon, Jenna Laughinghouse, and Meghan Keiser- are all back. They showed leadership as sophomores last season and they set the tone in matches which led to the team’s success last season.
“Since we do not have many seniors, it shows we have a lot more underclassman girls with experience, mostly juniors,” said Landon. “There really hasn’t been large groups in front of us.”
When Landon was a freshman, the tennis team did have one of its largest groups of seniors and they took her under their wing.
“I know how great that was, and I knew that is what I wanted to do if I was ever in the same position to lead,” she said. “They helped lead us, now it is our turn to lead the younger girls.”
One way Landon takes her role as a leader to the next level is including her new teammates outside of practices.
“If I am coming up to the high school to just hit, say on a weekend or something, I put it out on social media and invite everyone to come up and join me. It is a fun way to get together and still work hard,” she said.
The chemistry on the court was evident at a recent practice, as the coach and players were all focused on playing the game, but also having fun.
Landon offered, “I can honestly say this team has no drama. We all get along, it is a good thing to be a part of.”
“I want the girls to look back and see that working hard as a team goes a long way in the success of a program,” said Muthler.
In the 2018 fall season, the expectations, Muthler explained, were to rebuild.
“We only had two players returning with starting experience,” said the coach. “The girls surpassed expectations by going 9-4 in the conference and earning the six seed in districts.”
Along with assistant coach Joe Reese, Muthler and the team are striving to improve on last years results and be competitive in all of the matches.
To accomplish that, the coaches are stressing consistency. They also want to make the other team move. Largely, they want the team to be able to finish the point when the opportunity is presented.
Muthler said, “We are focusing on the fundamentals-just building up the basics so we are ready when the season begins. We’ve also been conditioning all summer which hopefully translates to more success in the court.”
Landon also added that Coach Muthler is able to look forward and see the bigger picture.
“I was the only freshman starter in my year alongside a large group of seniors. He watched out for me and made sure I could handle coming up through as a freshman,” she said.
“Our returning singles players, along with Ashley Kenia, should make a strong top four starters. They have a year of experience to build off of,” said Muthler who is in his third year at the front of the girls team. “But our weaknesses lay in the inexperience in our depth.”
Looking ahead to the schedule, Muthler feels that all of the matches on the schedule are big.
“We try to take it one match at a time, but districts are always an action packed couple of days at Kirby Park,” he added. “Our team will take the season one match at a time and the postseason will take care of itself.”
“Coach Muthler is a great coach with a great sense of humor. He likes to win, but he also is lighthearted and keeps tennis fun,” said Landon.
The Tigers open on the road at MMI Prep on August 22 before taking the home court on August 26 against Pittston.
Roster: Seniors Alyssa Hettashimer and Ava Kidd. Juniors Rebecca Berry, Alexis Brown, Alison Edwards, Meghan Keiser, Ashley Kenia, Kassie LaChase, Jillian Landon, Jenna Laughinghouse, Emily Martin, Emma Moran, and Samantha Warring. Sophomores Olivia Doerner, Kaya Sabbatini, Lily Lipisko, and Alyza Vega. Freshmen Hannah Aiken, Rosie Culver, and Leah Klose.
Schedule: Aug. 20 at MMI Prep; Aug.22 vs. Dallas; Aug. 26 vs. Pittston; Aug. 28 at Hazleton; Aug. 29 vs. Wyoming Seminary; Sept. 3 vs. Holy Redeemer; Sept. 5
at Wyoming Area; Sept. 9 vs. Berwick; Sept. 11 at Hanover; Sept. 16 vs. Wilkes-Barre Area; Sept. 18 at Wyoming Valley West; Sept. 19
at Crestwood; Sept. 21