NEWTON TWP. — The Abington Heights girls tennis team returned two of its singles starters and welcomed an accomplished player to the lineup.
Junior Lauren Koczwara, who started at number-three singles last year, and Clare DellaValle, who started at number-two singles, are competing for the second and third singles spots this season.
Freshman Bella Peters, the second-ranked player in the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Eastern PA Girls 16s Division, took over as the starter at number-one singles, replacing Lauren Carroll who graduated.
Peters won the Women’s A Division Singles Championship in the Lackawanna County Open at the Scranton Tennis Club the past two years and teamed with Koczwara to win the Women’s A Doubles Title this year.
“She has a lot of tournament match experience,” Abington Heights head coach Kelly Arp said. “She played at lot with the USTA and has a really strong record in the area. We’re really excited to have her join us.”
Koczwara believes the experience gained last season will help as she continues to progress as a player.
“Last year, I got to play against a variety of players,” she said. “I learned to be patient and know what shots to use. I’ve been working on my serve and also making sure I have the perfect timing down to get a winning shot off.”
According to Koczwara, the team always tries to stay upbeat during practices and matches.
“We’re all like a huge family and we work so well together,” she said. “We’re all super happy and cheer each other on. We make sure the vibes are really strong and there is never a bad day.”
DellaValle, who missed the first match with a sprained thumb, has worked to become a steadier player as opposed to taking a lot of chances on the court.
“I think my game has become a lot more consistent,” she said. “When I started as a freshman, I wanted to play as hard as I could and ended up making a lot of unforced errors.”
She also focused more on her mobility while preparing for the season.
“My coach always says ‘there are two things on the bottom of your legs called feet; move them,’” DellaValle said.
Juniors Brooke Dennison and Holly Ross return as the starters at number-one doubles.
Senior Keena Jackson, juniors Sidney Horvath and Julia Brown, and sophomore Isabel Holland have made starts in doubles this season. Junior Julia Poulson-Houser, a key contributor at number-two doubles last season, is also competing for playing time.
“Our doubles players are very close competitively and we have a lot of girls in the running for those spots,” Arp said.
The Lady Comets had their seven-year streak as District 2 Class 3A champions snapped by Hazleton Area last season.
“That was a big disappointment, but I think we’re going to be a little stronger this year,” Arp said.
Arp expects North Pocono, Scranton Prep and Wallenpaupack to provide the toughest competition in Lackawanna League play.
Reach Robert Tomkavage at 570-704-3941 or on Twitter @rtomkavage.