Allentown girls’ tennis team features youth, depth

Coach Monica Kays will rally her girls’ tennis team at Allentown High School behind a victory achieved during last year’s state tournament.

For the first time in her four seasons coaching at Allentown, the Redbirds won a state tournament match when they defeated Trenton Central High School, 5-0, in the opening round of the Central Jersey, Group 3 playoffs. Allentown then fell to Hightstown High School, 4-1, in the second round of the state tournament.

“That was our best year of my four years here,” Kays said. “We’re hoping for our banner year this year.”

Kays believes her team’s depth will be a major factor in Allentown’s bid to improve on a 6-10 record of a season ago.

“Our biggest strength is that we’re really deep this year,” Kays said. “There’s not much difference between first singles to all the way down to second doubles. That’s exciting for me. I think in order to be a successful team, you need to be a really deep team.”

Team unity, the coach said, could also result in a winning season.

“I think the one thing I would like to see is a little more improvement in the camaraderie within our team,” Kays said. “The harder teams that are on our level, the Nottinghams and the Steinerts, they all have a really good team chemistry, and I believe that’s something we can improve on. I look forward to seeing that throughout the season this year.”

Kays will lean on the talents of sophomore Erin Gray, who will play at first singles; junior Jordan Annese, who is penciled in at second singles; and the freshman second doubles team of Grace Vogt and Isabella Dona.

“Gray has been working really hard in the offseason,” Kays said. “She’s looking to play some national USTA tournaments, and I’m looking forward to seeing her improvement in first singles this year. Annese plays really hard and has a really great game. I’m excited to see her at second singles.

“We have two freshmen who I’m really excited about. Dona and Vogt have been playing really well in the challenge matches, and I’m looking forward to see them get better throughout their four years here.”

Kays’ team is very young, but she sees it as an advantage.

“We actually don’t have many seniors,” Kays said. “Our youth gives us a lot of opportunity for growth. A lot of the other teams that have a lot of upperclassmen, they’ve already done most of their growing. They’ll get better as the season goes on, but really these girls have three or four years of improving and getting better, especially playing older competition.”

The Redbirds will start their season on Sept. 5 at Hopewell Valley Central High School at 4 p.m.

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