Weekly Feature

2017-09-07 / Sports

Cheektowaga girls tennis hoping to be more competitive in 2017

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter

Cheektowaga girls tennis team coach Christine Lopardi is aiming for a better showing by the Lady Warriors in 2017 after they were held without a win during her first year with the club.

To do that, however, the Lady Warriors will have to rely on someone other than former captain Morgan Blake, last year’s top singles player who is among the seven players who graduated off of last season’s squad. Fortunately, Lopardi believes there are players capable and willing to step up their games in that quest this fall.

“We are going to be more competitive this year,” Lopardi said. “The girls are conditioned physically and mentally, and are ready to compete. We are looking for big things from our singles and first doubles teams. Our team as a whole has grit; the odds are stacked against us but we will come out ready to play and compete to the best of our abilities. I give them conditioning or a drill and they put forth 110-percent effort, and they work out after practice to get better. They always encourage each other too.

“It is so refreshing to coach girls who want to do well and are willing to ask for help and advice. Each player is dedicated to the team and its success.”

Leading the way this season will be returning captain Briana Kliber, who has been a captain for two seasons already. The senior moves up to the top singles role after playing at second singles last year. Fellow senior Madison Klopfle also jumps up the singles ladder, going from third singles last year to second this year.

“Briana has an excellent serve and forehand hits,” Lopardi said. “She is a strategic player and mentally tough, and she has excellent sportsmanship. She’s a natural born leader who loves to help her teammates. And Madison works hard and moves around the court well. She has excellent mechanics and stroke technique, and she is very smart too; she balances her studies, sports and music well.”

Senior Ehete Mehret, meanwhile, will be looking to continue her growth in the game — she was new to tennis last year — by teaming with junior Rachel Blake at first doubles. Blake has been on the team since middle school, and has partnered up well with Mehret to date.

“Our team in general is in great physical and mental shape,” Lopardi said. “They work hard and strive to be excellent tennis players and students in the classroom. They have tremendous work ethic and always show sportsmanship.”

The Lady Warriors, who anticipate tough matches this season from Iroquois, Starpoint and crosstown rival Maryvale, which was the squad’s season-opening foe Wednesday. Information about that match was not available at press time, however.

Cheektowaga closes out its week Friday at Starpoint and then begins its first full week of school by hosting Alden on Tuesday.

“Our goal is to win matches, come to each school ready to compete, keep our grades up, and practice sportsmanship in every aspect of our lives, both on and off the court,” Lopardi said. “We can’t get lazy or lose focus on our goals, so we have to stay mentally and physically prepared.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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