GHS girls' tennis team looks to improve with junior-heavy squad

By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Griswold - posted Tue., Apr. 3, 2012
Fabjola Qosja is the sole returning senior on the Griswold girls' tennis squad. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.
Fabjola Qosja is the sole returning senior on the Griswold girls' tennis squad. Photos by Janice Steinhagen.

After a spell of idyllic spring weather, the Griswold High School sports teams suddenly had to deal with the return of Old Man Winter last week, as chilly March winds swept the hilltop athletic fields. That didn’t faze Daryl Schlender’s girls’ tennis team, though. Serves and volleys braved the brisk temperatures – and there were even a few pairs of shorts in evidence.

Schlender, who has coached the fencing team for 10 years, is returning to the girls’ tennis coaching spot after a two-year absence, when the squad was led by Jerry Beals. The Wolverines’ record last season was 1-13.

The returning coach is leading a team that was decimated by commencement: the Wolverine squad lost eight of its 10 varsity athletes to graduation last year. And the departing players didn’t leave a lot of juniors behind; Fabjola Qosja is the sole senior on the 2013 squad.

“The team’s singles players are the most experienced,” said Schlender. His returning varsity doubles players – Qosja and her sister, sophomore Kledjda Qosja, who Schlender says is “demonstrating great leadership skills,” are moving into the singles slots. Karyn Walsh and Madison Ahearn, both juniors, round out the singles.

In doubles, varsity pairs include juniors Ryanne Simmons and Amber Gaffney; junior Taylor Chafee and sophomore Harleyanne Hall; and junior Kaitlin Topper paired with sophomore Monique Maynard.

Rounding out the squad are three junior varsity doubles pairs: Angeli St. Lot with Alexis Rickey, both sophomores; freshman Brittany Ellis with sophomore Leighanne Okpych; and freshman Marissa Morales with sophomore Gabrielle Thomas.

Schlender said that two dozen hopefuls tried out for the team’s 16 slots. After a week and a half of watching the players at practice, he made the final cuts near the end of last week.

“We are going to focus on strengthening our primary serve and the consistency of volleys to extend the play – hopefully resulting in the opponent making an error,” Schlender said.

He and the Wolverine girls will face their first match on the road in New London on Wednesday, April 11. Their ECC Small division competitors will include Killingly, St. Bernard, Montville and Lyman. “I don’t have much intel on the other teams, but St. Bernard and Lyman usually have strong teams,” Schlender said.

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