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Women's Tennis 2016 Season Preview

Women's Tennis 2016 Season Preview

8/31/2016 — The 2016 edition of the Penn State Altoona women’s tennis team features a young roster, with nine of squad’s 11 players being first-year members of the program. Fourth-year head coach Doug Simmons is excited about the infusion of new talent to his team, and he hopes that it will help the program improve on last season’s middle-of-the-pack finish in the Allegheny Mountain Collegiate Conference.

But with so many newcomers, Simmons will lean on his two returners: senior Michelle Colucci (Middletown, NJ/St. John Vianney) and sophomore Alyssa Decker (Rensselaer, NY/Tech Valley).

Colucci has proven to be one of the top players in Penn State Altoona women’s tennis history. Last year, she became the program’s all-time wins leader in singles, finishing the 2015 campaign with 24 career victories. In the No. 1 singles slot last fall, Colucci went 9-3 overall, including a 6-1 mark against AMCC competition. Her season culminated with a second team All-AMCC selection, and her head coach expects her to cap off her collegiate tennis career with another big year this fall.

"Michelle is my team captain and leader this year. My expectations for her are the same as every year: to be the best player in the AMCC," said Simmons. "She has been with me since I started coaching at Penn State Altoona, and as such, she holds a special place in my heart. When I think of women’s tennis at Penn State Altoona, she is the name that comes to mind. It’s my hope that I can convince more players of her caliber to stick around for all four years to lead our program in the future."

The Lady Lions’ other returner, Decker, compiled a 5-4 overall record in singles matches last season as a freshman, playing primarily in the No. 5 and No. 6 flights.

"Alyssa had a strong season last year and got some valuable experience," said Simmons. "I expect her to contribute at a similar level this season, and I’d really love to see her improve a bit at the net so we can use her height to her advantage in doubles."

When it comes to the team’s newcomers, Simmons is very optimistic that several of that group will fit into his lineup nicely. He points to freshmen Kate Hugendubler (Reedsville, PA/Mifflin County), Brayley Lewis (Roaring Spring, PA/Bishop Guilfoyle), Madelyn Seidel (Altoona, PA/Altoona), and Patricia Whelan (Newburgh, NY/John S. Burke Catholic) as being four players who can be particularly successful this fall.

"Kate is a nice talent who hits a big forehand and has solid groundstrokes, and she will just need to stay consistent and smart. Brayley played No. 1 for Bishop Guilfoyle and is an excellent player who is very consistent and will compete well for us," Simmons explained. "Maddie played varsity for Altoona High and is an extremely consistent player with groundstrokes that have a lot of spin. Patricia produces solid groundstrokes from both wings with excellent form."

Rounding out the rest of the group of first-year Lady Lions are Ariel Koenig (Mechanicsville, VA/Atlee), Victoria Acker (Cresson, PA/Penn Cambria), Priya Krishna (Vienna, VA/James Madison), Annie Ruggles (Hollidaysburg, PA/Hollidaysburg), and Taylor Stoudnour (Hollidaysburg, PA/Altoona).

"This season is unique because our team is pretty deep with a lot of players who could contribute right away," said Simmons. "We have a good bit of local talent, too, which is great."

Penn State Altoona’s 12-date regular season schedule includes seven home matches, four of which are against AMCC opponents Mount Aloysius College, D’Youville College, Medaille College, and Franciscan University. The Lady Lions hit the road to play conference opponents La Roche College, Pitt-Greensburg, Penn State Behrend, and Pitt-Bradford. The team’s schedule also features four non-conference matches, including the squad’s home opener on Wednesday, September 7 at 3:30 p.m. against Waynesburg University.

Simmons believes that he has the talent on his roster to succeed this year, and he hopes that his young team will play consistently and limit mistakes to rival some of the top programs in the AMCC in 2016. Last year, Penn State Altoona was 7-8 overall and 4-4 in the AMCC, and Simmons sees room for improvement this season.

"Beating teams like Penn State Behrend and Franciscan is always tough, and the other teams in our conference are constantly improving, too," said Simmons. "As always, I would love to win the conference. It really depends on how well we mesh as a team."

Photo: Senior Michelle Colucci will continue to be an important part of the Lady Lions' lineup in both singles and doubles matches this season.

TAGS: women's tennis