With an influx of newcomers this season, State College girls’ tennis coach Jane Borden can’t even assume her players will know where to board the bus for away matches.
Borden will be focused on the details and open to answering questions heading into 2017. Borden said the Lady Little Lions will have just two returning players with varsity experience in Kelly Vanden and Jasmine Cao. They’ll have a large group of freshmen joining the program, but the coach is ready to prepare her team for 2017.
“It is what it is, so you just embrace it, and you get ’em ready and have fun with it,” Borden said. “I think we will be fine. Sometimes the least-experienced teams are the most successful in ways — not only winning, but in improving from Day 1 to the end of the season. If they’ve improved, that’s success to me.”
State College finished its 2016 season in the first round of the District 6 tournament with a loss to Altoona. After losing six of its top eight players from last year, the team will lean on the experience of Vanden and Cao.
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“I can really relate with these girls that are coming in, and I think I can help them feel comfortable with the team,” Vanden said.
Vanden, a junior, has been a top singles player in each of the last two seasons for the Lady Little Lions. She earned the No. 3 seed in the District 6 singles championships in 2016 and fell in the quarterfinals. Cao, who is also a junior, played doubles the past two years.
She can also relate to the freshmen as she recalls relying on her doubles partner in her first season.
“I think just knowing as a varsity player that your games count toward the team,” Cao said. “That builds a little bit of pressure.”
As the season went on, she learned the strategy of doubles play and became more comfortable on the court. Now, Vanden and Cao will look to ease the transition to the varsity team for the young players.
“There’s a big group of freshmen coming in,” Borden said. “I don’t want to put any names out there and put a lot of pressure on them.”
State College girls’ tennis
Head coach: Jane Borden
Assistant coach: Jackie Gibbins
Last season: 12-5
Key losses: Laura Guay, Shannon Steel, Maggie Jaenicke, Caroline Kranich, Betsy Driscoll, Amanda Clark
Key returnees: Kelly Vanden, Jasmine Cao
Key newcomers: Amelia Dodo, Catelyn Janic