First year coach Ellie Kuzma returns to her roots with Tunkhannock tennis, carrying 11 seniors who have all played together since their freshman year.
Kuzma inherited a full squad from Justin Muthler, including six returning starters this year and she feels both fortunate and excited about that.
She added, “Two returners, Leah Klose and Hannah Aitken, are showing a lot of talent this year. The battle between these two players for the starting seven spot will be something to keep an eye on. We also have three new freshmen- Sara Mikus, Alyssa Trauger, and Emily Westfield. Overall, the whole team is showing a noticeable amount of improvement from our first open court three weeks ago.”
Kuzma played tennis during her time at Tunkhannock Area High School. She revealed her main focus was track, but felt tennis was a great cross trainer and enjoyed that it was a lifetime sport. She didn’t play tennis until her junior year, saying it was actually totally unplanned. But in her time as a Tiger, Kuzma was part of an undefeated doubles pairing for two years during the conference games, but was knocked out at districts. She was the captain of the tennis team both her junior and senior years.
“I graduated and was an athlete from Tunkhannock. It’s my hometown and will always have a special place in my heart,” she said. “I want to coach because Tunkhannock Area provided me with great athletic opportunities in tennis and track, so now it’s my turn to give back. I really do enjoy coaching and look forward to going to tennis each day.”
This season, the Lady Tigers are spending time on the importance of keeping their feet moving and staying alert.
Kuzma said, “When you’re on the court, you’re playing tennis until the match is over. There’s no time to hit the ball and then watch your own match.”
The King’s College grad says she was inspired to coach by Tunkhannock coaches Pat Conaboy, who showed how important accountability and hard work is; Jeff Underwood and Coach John Grey who introduced her to the game and helped form her into a successful tennis player; and Kenny Young, who was her track coach but now she coaches beside.
She added, “(Kenny) always stresses the importance of teamwork and how to be a family, which is something I want my tennis girls to take away from this season and my coaching.”
“My expectations for this season are for the girls to learn how to play the game in a smart and clever way. They have the skills and the athletic ability, now it’s time to put the mind behind the game and play a smart game of tennis,” said Kuzma, who is joined by assistant coaches Joe Reese and Josh Herbert. She also acknowledges booster parents Kristin Landon and Ann Laughinghouse, saying she doesn’t want their hard work to go unrecognized because they’d be lost without them.
The Lady Tigers boast a full roster, and Kuzma sees that as a strength.
“I believe our biggest strengths is that the majority of our team and starters are returners, so all we have to do is fine tune their skills. The real strength of our team is that all the girls are there to build each other up and truly treat each other like family,” but also acknowledged, “our biggest weakness currently is quickness and ball placement accuracy, but it’s just the start of the season.”
She also admitted, “I believe we will be able to compete with all teams on the schedule, but honestly I’m just thankful we have a schedule this year.”
After the season is over Kuzma hopes the team can take away what it means to be a team and remembers all the fun times they had together on and off the court.
“There’s of course going to be hard times, but I want them to remember sticking together and powering through the tough times as a team,” she said. “With 11 seniors this is a very special group and I believe they will show the underclassmen how to create the same team dynamic in future seasons.”
Roster: Seniors Rebecca Berry, Alexis Brown, Allison Edwards, Meghan Keiser, Ashley Kenia, Kassie LaChase, Jillian Landon, Jenna Laughinghouse, Emily Martin, Emma Moran, and Samantha Warring. Juniors Alyza Vega and Olivia Doemer. Sophomores Hannah Aitken, Rosie Cuiver, and Leah Klose. Freshmen Sara Mikus, Alyssa Trauger, and Emalyn Westfield.