Record-Courier staff report
Five years, five championships for the Kent Roosevelt girls tennis team.
The Rough Riders captured their fifth consecutive regular-season Portage Trail Conference title on Friday with a 4-1 victory over Norton. The win improved Kent Roosevelt's season record to 11-3 overall and 11-1 within PTC competition.
While all of the championships hold their own importance, the 2013 crown will hold a special place because it was the least expected for the program.
With the graduation of last year's league Player of the Year Andrea Krebs and talented teammate Immy Underwood, preseason discussions pointed toward the possibilities of Woodridge and Field holding the odds to win the title.
The Bulldogs and Falcons did indeed split their two encounters against each other. However, Roosevelt stunned Field with a 4-1 victory in the season's first match and took both of its matches with Woodridge.
Kent Roosevelt's only stumble came in 3-2 setback against Field, but the Falcons' loss to Woodridge dropped them to a second-place finish (10-2).
Overall, the Rough Riders posted eight shutouts on the season, but head coach Kim Uhlik said he never felt at ease during the season.
"We greatly respect our PTC opponents and take nothing for granted," Uhlik said. "Alex (McDaniel) was untested at singles (having played first doubles last year), and Sarah (Kegg) had to move up to second singles from third, a huge jump. Our remaining starters were not even among our top seven players in 2012."
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the dominating performances turned-in by the Riders' three singles players, positions that seemed vulnerable when vacated by Krebs and Underwood after the 2012 campaign. Twin sisters Sarah and Hannah Kegg won all their PTC matches at second and third singles, respectively, and Sarah remains undefeated overall this season with two non-league matches remaining. McDaniel lost only to Field's Abbey Helwig, the league's consensus Player of the Year. Collectively, the trio's PTC record stands at 34-2.
"Without a doubt, much of this year's success has rested on our singles players' racquets," Uhlik said. "At last year's team banquet, I told them that our league opponents had waited four long years to get a shot at us in 2013, and we had an opportunity to rise to the challenge. They worked so hard during the off-season."
Another benefit derived from having strong singles was breathing room in which to develop the doubles pairs.
"Kayla Zagray and Paige Pfeiffer saved us at Field, while Brianna Richardson and Genevieve Underwood searched for their footing during that match," Uhlik said. "But we've been less consistent at those positions than we need to be. Fortunately, all four players have listened and learned, and now are the most competitive they've been all season."
The girls tennis PTC Tournament is Wednesday.