Spring sports preview: Allison McCann leading unfamiliar, inexperienced Amherst girls tennis

Mother takes over as coach, while daugther preps for senior season

  • JERREY ROBERTSAllison McCann, of Amherst Regional, returns against Adele Fantasia, of Northampton, in a second singles match Tuesday in Amherst.GAZETTE FILE PHOTOJunior Allison McCann is seeking her first Western Massachusetts individual title now that her sister Nicole doesn’t stand in her way. JERREY ROBERTS

For the Gazette
Published: 4/7/2016 8:33:23 PM

It has been two years since the Amherst Regional girls tennis team had its season end without a Western Massachusetts Division 1 championship, four years since Allison McCann was in the lineup and seven years since anyone other than CJ Holt coached the team.

With records of 15-2 (2015), 16-0 (’14) and 16-2 (’13), the past three years have been business as usual for the Hurricanes.

This season, however, presents multiple changes and obstacles to an Amherst team that really hasn’t faced many in recent years.

Gloria McCann, an assistant coach for the Hurricanes, took over from Holt, who led the team to the 2015 state semifinals, where it lost to Shrewsbury.

McCann joins the program at an unfamiliar stage.

The Hurricanes graduated 12 players over the last two seasons, leaving McCann with a simple yet daunting task — filling the roster.

“Well, I think that it is really going to be a rebuilding year,” McCann said. “We tried recruiting, and we did the best that we could, but we only have 10 on the team.”

Along with the roster being very thin, it is also very inexperienced. No. 1 singles player and defending Western Massachusetts individual champion Allison McCann is one of two seniors on the team, however, the other senior, Christine Sherwood, has very limited experience.

“In past years, there has always been a large number of kids who have had years and years of experience playing tennis,” Gloria McCann said. “I don’t have that this year, so it’s going to be very different. It’s not a lot of strategy, and the focus will really be on the fundamentals.”

The team does have some returning athletes who can help with the teaching process and hopefully keep the Hurricanes afloat.

The singles players will remain the same as last season with Allison McCann at No. 1, Nya Saunders No. 2 and Margaret O’Connell No. 3.

The two doubles teams will be filled by the seven remaining players.

“The doubles teams we had last year, all of the girls graduated, so it is all just starting from scratch as far as the doubles teams,” Gloria McCann said. “The key to winning, I think, does often come down to the doubles, at least in past years, so we’ll see how it goes this year.”

Gloria McCann wasn’t predicting another Western Mass. title.

“I think it is too far down the road for me at least, or the team, to think about that,” Gloria McCann said. “There are so many new players on the team. That’s very far from my mind.”

What makes this a potentially challenging season for Gloria McCann is how inexperienced seven of the 10 players are.

McCann said that Holt talks to her regularly, checking up on the team and offering his advice.

“I think he has always been very good at putting lineups together,” she said. “So I think I’ll discuss with him in a little bit after I see how the girls play what he thinks as far as lineups. He’s always pretty good at putting together the doubles lineup and he always has a good plan for that.”

Gloria McCann has been around the team for almost as long as Holt. Her daughter, Nicole, was a two-time individual champion, winning sectional titles in 2013 and 2014. Allison was a two-time runner-up before her win in 2015.

The United States Tennis Association has Allison McCann fourth in New England Girls 18s rankings, and 131st nationally.

McCann, who will play at Dartmouth, wants to focus on the Hurricanes.

“I mean of course I hope our team makes Western Mass., maybe like last year,” Allison McCann said. “We lost our doubles players so that might be hard. But I hope we can do the same and just try our best and I hope I do well at individuals and the same thing at Western Mass. and then hopefully move on to states.”

Gloria McCann expects much of the same.

“Well, she had a good season last year, and I kind of expect sort of the same thing,” Gloria McCann said. “She doesn’t have any injuries, she feels good about her game, she’s still improving and working on things and hopefully it will be a successful season.”

Allison McCann was one of 30 tennis players nationwide named to the USTA Junior Leadership Team.

“I definitely would love for people to look up to me,” Allison McCann said. “I try to be optimistic even when I’m losing. I try to stay positive and I really think that is important for all players because it is really easy to get down on yourself.”

GIRLS TENNIS

Amherst

COACH: Gloria McCann, first year

LEAGUE: Valley League

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 18-3

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2015, lost 4-1 to Shrewsbury in the state D-1 semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Senior — Allison McCann; Junior — Nya Saunders; Sophomores — Margaret O’Connell

RETURNING PLAYERS: Juniors — Amaraya Deza, Nikayla Krouch; Sophomore — Anna Lacey

NEWCOMERS: Senior — Christine Sherwood; Freshmen — Christiana Lee, Samantha DeAngelis, Julia Hopley

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes have won the last three sectional titles while their No. 1 player each of the last seven seasons has won the individual championship. CJ Holt stepped away after seven seasons last year, handing the reigns to assistant Gloria McCann. Allison McCann is the defending individual champ. She is ranked fourth by the USTA in New England Girls 18 Singles.

Belchertown

COACH: Jackie Kowal, 12th year

LEAGUE: Pioneer

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 20-1

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2015, lost 3-2 to Monument in WMass Division 3 semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Julia Tan, Maddie Hamparian, Angela Grabazs, Brooke O’Neill; Juniors — Meghan Bernard, Jordyn Paul

RETURNING PLAYERS: Sophomores — Emily Hamparian, Eliza Smith, Kate Assimus, Nicole Sterste, Karly Roux, Olivia Duclos, Julia Morgado

NEWCOMERS: Freshmen — Madison Slater, Nicole Oberg, Emily Slater

OUTLOOK: The Orioles lost only one starter from last season. The experience should lead to another strong regular season. Bernard (No. 1), Tan (No. 2) and Paul (No. 3) should return to their singles positions. Bernard is ranked 54th by the USTA in New England Girls 16 Singles.

Frontier Regional

COACH: Steve Barrett, 13th year

LEAGUE: Tri-County North

LAST YEARS RECORD: 15-1

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2015, lost 4-1 to Lenox in the WMass Division 3 quarterfinal

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Ashley Barrington, Erika Poissant, Lily Schuman, Allison Zera; Juniors — Tori Bowes, Celia Speth;

RETURNING PLAYERS: Junior — Morgan Farrick; Sophomore — Anna Zera; Eighth grade — Tori Speth;

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Helena Diaz, Ashley Levasseur; Freshman — Penelope Hosley;

OUTLOOK: Frontier finished the regular season undefeated last year before an upset ended its payoff run early. The Red Hawks bring back all three singles players in Barrington, Celia Speth and Allison Zera and a doubles team in Bowes and Poissant. Barrett wants the team to “shoot for a repeat of last year’s success, make the tournament and have fun.”

Northampton

COACH: Jeff Holman, 12th year

LEAGUE: Valley Wheel

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 11-8

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2015, lost 5-0 to Longmeadow in the WMass Division 1 quarterfinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Phoebe Gelbard, Shannon Collins, Rachel Frogameni; Juniors — Caitlyn Richmond, Sarina Hahn, Jordan Kuhr; Sophomore — Hanna Kanig

RETURNING PLAYERS: Juniors — Marissa Tousey-Pfarrer, Chloe Harper, Nicole Leroux, Carolyn Leroux, Hannah Crand, Luna Ever-Hale, Cassidy Armstrong; Sophomore — Nistha Patel

NEWCOMERS: Sophomore — Emily Haller; Freshmen — Maegan Phelps, Sophie Gill, Magnolia Armstrong

OUTLOOK: In a division that Holman described as “even” this year, the Blue Devils look to finish with a winning record and in the hunt for the WMass title. The team is not as deep as it was last year, according to Holman, but still boasts a lot of top-tier talent. Gelbard will start at first singles. Holman said that the outcome of this year will rely heavily on staying healthy.

South Hadley

COACH: Eric Cestero, 19th year

LEAGUE: Valley Wheel

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 12-7

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2015, lost 3-2 to Lenox in the WMass Division 3 semifinals

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Katie Meon, Tosin Omojola; Juniors — Caroline Robitaille, Alicia O’Brien, Madeline Morin, Hannah Dahrouqe, Emma Parenteau.

NEWCOMERS: Juniors — Alyssa Gonneville, Mikayla Kelly, Hannah Kebbede; Sophomores — Madden Macon, Amirah Smiles; Freshmen — Madden Lacost, Sarah Picard, Ali Deschenaux, Alexa Blaney, Olivia Blaney, Hannah Gebhardt, Aislinn Ford, Bailey Gawron, Kaylin Cousineau.

OUTLOOK: The Tigers will look to make it back to the postseason behind singles starters Meon and Omojola.




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