SWHS girls' tennis progresses through the season

By Martha Marteney - Staff Writer
South Windsor - posted Fri., May. 6, 2011
Seniors Shilla Thomas, Andie Earwaker, Yamini Chalikonda and Nicole Tomkiel play for the South Windsor High School girls' tennis team.  Not pictured: senior Deepta Ramesh.  Photos by Martha Marteney.
Seniors Shilla Thomas, Andie Earwaker, Yamini Chalikonda and Nicole Tomkiel play for the South Windsor High School girls' tennis team. Not pictured: senior Deepta Ramesh. Photos by Martha Marteney.

The South Windsor High Schoolgirls’ tennis team is halfway through the season and currently has an even record of wins and losses. “The progression we have is what I expect for this time in the season,” said Frank Rizzuto, who has been the team’s coach for 11 years. He explained that the team’s losses have been to strong teams. “We’re a good, competitive team,” he said.

This year’s team is evenly divided between upper and lower classmen, and includes seniors Yamini Chalikonda, Andie Earwaker, Deepta Ramesh, Shilla Thomas and Nicole Tomkiel. After losing four strong seniors to graduation last year, the team has had to regroup, especially in the doubles. According to Rizzuto, the doubles players are learning his strategy, which is an adapted conventional doubles strategy, and still getting to know their new partners. “That’s a work in progress,” said Rizzuto.

“The strength of our team is our singles line-up,” said Rizzuto. Speaking about junior Lauren Schmidt, he said, “She’s our number-one player. She just progressively develops.” Her two losses were both to strong players.

Co-captain K.C. Karasinski, a junior, has been playing tennis for 10 years and started with the team at SWHS her freshman year. “I like that it’s individualized, but still has a team aspect to it,” said Karasinski. She described her forehand as strength on the court, noting also, “I try to read my opponents and change stuff up based on their weaknesses.” As captain, she tries to keep her teammates motivated.

Fellow co-captain and junior Lauren Schmidt has been playing competitive tennis for five years. She sees her first serve and her forehand as her playing strengths and the shots she uses to win a point. “We have good chemistry,” said Schmidt about her teammates. As captain, she works to lead the players to do not only what they are supposed to be doing, but also to have fun.

The only senior on the singles line-up, Andie Earwaker admits why she prefers playing singles. “I don’t like to share the court,” she said. Earwaker started playing tennis a couple years before joining the high school team. Speaking about this year’s team, she said, “We’ve got a bunch of good people, including one freshman who is now number three on the varsity doubles team.”

Senior Yamini Chalikonda has played tennis since the second grade. “I like the competition,” she explained, “but it’s also fun because you’re on a team.” Chalikonda plays doubles, and views her forearm as her strength. “I feel like I have more control of the ball,” she explained. The trick with doubles is to hit the ball right in the hole between the two players, so they are unsure whose ball it is.

“I look forward to all the matches,” said Nicole Tomkiel, especially because this is her senior year. As a senior, she also sees herself trying to help out more, especially with the new players. “We all get along,” she noted.

“It’s a fun sport,” said senior Shilla Thomas, adding that she enjoys being part of the team, as well as the competition with other schools. She started playing tennis her freshman year, and joined the South Windsor team when she transferred to this high school her junior year. “Once I tried it, I really liked it,” she added. Volleying the ball is her strength, especially getting up to the net. She plays both singles and doubles, but prefers doubles.

Speaking about their fellow senior teammate Deepta Ramesh, the seniors agreed that Ramesh loves team building. She also attacks the net. Earwaker said, “She’s number one in doubles.”

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