First time in program history to win league back-to-back years
By David Yarger
It's been a good two years for the Niagara-Wheatfield girls tennis team. In 2017, the team won its first Niagara Frontier League title since 2012. In 2018, the girls are back on top of the league - clinching their fourth NFL title in program history. It's also the first time in program history that the team has won the title in back-to-back years.
The accomplishment meant a lot to N-W coach Kristin Janese and she said it's a testament to her players.
"Winning back to back is not only incredibly special, but it's really hard to do. It makes it feel even better," Janese said. "It validates all of the hard work our players put in on and off the court."
The team also underwent change this past season, as No. 1 singles player Lila Trunzo graduated and now plays at Niagara University. Despite the loss on the roster, Janese returned 14 players, with nine being seniors. With the return of so many players, Janese said the team, currently sitting at 13-0 with one match left to play, planned on playing as well as they did in the NFL.
"As a team, we always come together. The coaches and the players planned for success at the end of last season. We did lose some familiar faces, but having 14 returning players and nine of them seniors - they planned on dominating and getting their time in the spotlight. They came together as a team and executed their/our plan perfectly," she said.
The loss of Trunzo may have seemed to be too much for N-W to fill, but that wasn't true as second singles player from last season Nicole Guldin made the jump to No. 1. Guldin finished the 2017 season undefeated as the second singles player and in her first season as No. 1, she is 10-3 and in the top-four of NFL first singles players.
Janese said Guldin has learned a lot this season and has pushed herself to become the best player she can be.
"She did have some big shoes to fill. Nicole has always been a respectable player. She is no stranger to winning coming off of an undefeated season from last year. Her biggest obstacle was her mental game and I think it is also her biggest area of growth this year," Janese said. "I can drive my players, but it's nice when you have a player like Nicole who thrives off of driving herself as well. I think her success is a product of what she puts into the game all year round."
Another huge key to the team's success has been the first doubles pairing of Jocelyn Fike and Nikki Kwiatkowski. The reigning First Team All-NFL first doubles pairing is undefeated this season and haven't truly been tested, as they are 156-16 in games in NFL play. Janese said the duo's success is no mystery.
"I am not surprised. They are competitors. They know with each new season comes new challenges. They did not forget their successes from last year, but instead of getting wrapped up in the successes, they used it as fire to set new and higher goals for this year," Janese said.
With one match left to play versus Lewiston-Porter, Janese said she didn't tell her team it clinched the league yet, because she wants them to play until the very last point.
As the season wraps up, Janese will likely send a few players to the Section VI tournament and she hoped that the girls who play will take all the hard work they put forth onto the court like they always have.
"I hope that they can step onto the court and play matches that they are proud of. The draw is going to be absolutely packed with talent this year in both singles and doubles. They remember how hard is was to win some matches last year," she said. "We have used a lot of famous and not so famous quotes this year as a team. Preparation began the moment our season ended last year. These girls will not quit, they have a will to win, they're scrappy and not afraid to leave their comfort zone. They have it in them."
The girls tennis team's final league match is at 4:15 p.m. today versus Lewiston-Porter.