Tuscola girls tennis has wrapped a regular season under first-year head coach Andrew Johnson that has seen improvements and growth across the board.
Despite the team’s final record of 3-14, Johnson is pleased with the way his players competed and grew, marked by the number of close matches, sets and points throughout the year.
“Even though we tied for third to last in the conference, I think every school had at least 15 or more tiebreakers this season,” Johnson said. “Our girls had 15 tiebreakers, and that’s with the top three schools in the conference. We had tiebreakers with them across the board. I think that’s the biggest takeaway, and I think that’s something that the girls can recognize as well, is, alright, if we go on the winning side of those tiebreakers, our record could have been a lot different. Unfortunately we did not. We weren’t really able to secure a lot of those tiebreakers as wins, but when you’re taking it as close as you can, I think that’s a good sign.”
The Mountaineers had a number of players who were knew to tennis coming in, but their growth was evident as the year went on.
“I saw a lot of growth,” Johnson said. “It’s one of those things where you wish that we could have had a month to practice prior without coaching regulations if I could get with them a month prior and kind of just get that solid month of practice in before could have made a big difference as well. But by the end of the season, there were some players that were just playing good tennis. Sometimes we got some wins out of that and sometimes we didn’t, but then when you watch them play, it was a big difference between the beginning of the season and the end.”
The 2019 season was also marked by the leadership of the Mountaineers’ seniors. Last week, Tuscola’s senior night honored Fiona Masciarelli, Emily Trogdon, Gabriella Belitsos and Sarah Clarke’s contributions to the program.
“They were a good, close group of students,” Johnson said. “You hate to see four seniors that are really close go, especially as far as doubles partners. It takes a while to build a doubles partner. When they’re close together, they care about the program as well. Just today, we got our Tuscola women’s tennis sweatshirts that we all ordered together as a team. That was organized by them. And then just making sure everything’s kind of pieced in order, which is good to have. I expect that, as well, from my rising seniors. I don’t anticipate that desire to keep a tight ship going away.”
As the Mountaineers look to the future, Johnson is also encouraged by the mark his younger players made this season.
What they learned, both from the seniors and the tough competition they faced, should allow this to be a building block for the Tuscola girls tennis program moving forward.
“I think so, and I’ve been driving that in,” Johnson said. “At the last practice, I looked at [Cooper Richardson] and [Anneke Lam] and some other girls coming up, Abigail Westmoreland, Allie Trogdon and Autumn George. They’ve subbed in a couple times in the five-six seed and played some doubles. So looking at those five-six girls and saying ‘Ok, you did really well, Anneke in particular, you have a winning record at the six seed, but you’re moving up four spots. What’s it going to like like when you’re at the number two. So I’m hoping that they can carry that desire.”
Tuscola won both of its play-in games for the WMAC Tournament, with Lam winning 8-1 in singles and Trogdon and Belitsos 8-4 in doubles, but did not advance further.
“Not disappointed, as I’ve said all season, it’s a tough conference,” Johnson said. “Anneke and Cooper played very well against tough opponents that makes me excited to see them grow into next season. The four seniors grew throughout the season and while I’m sure they are ready to go through their senior year and graduate, I wouldn’t mind having them come back next season and build upon their progress from this year.”