Key seniors and young roster leading Falcons to greatness
By David Yarger
At the end of the 2016 tennis season, the Niagara-Wheatfield girls tennis team found themselves in second place, finishing 12-2 and one match behind Niagara Frontier League champion, Lockport. This season, the Falcons have used that finish as fuel to their fire.
The Falcons have been nothing short of dominant in their first eight matches of the year, as they are 8-0 and 40-0 in sets.
In high school tennis, each team starts three players in three individual singles matches, and then there is a pair of doubles matches, which include four players from each team.
In the lineup for the Falcons, coach Kristin Janese has started four seniors, as well as two juniors, and four sophomores in the matches.
The roster includes five seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores and even one seventh-grader.
Coach Kristin Janese said the group is a very close group, which has experience with each other.
"These girls are very familiar with each other. They know each others' strengths and weaknesses inside and out," she said. "Hallie Dworzanski and Lila Trunzo have been playing on the team since 2012. Amanda Waliszewski joined in 2013, while 10 of them have been together since 2014. They all have a genuine passion for the game and push each other in each and every practice."
In reference to the team's hot start, Janese pointed to her team's will and togetherness.
"These girls hate to lose. They don't accept being "good enough". They know that if they don't push themselves to get better each day, that they may not have a spot in the starting lineup in the next match.
"While the healthy competition pushes them to improve, they are the most supportive group of girls I have ever had the please of coaching. They truly want to see success from the top to the bottom of our ladder. Trunzo said our success is because, "our team is all about being supportive for one another and we always play our hardest while having fun at the same time,"" she said.
Janese starts Trunzo in the first singles match, which puts her up against the best player from each team, match-in and match-out. Janese praised the senior captain Trunzo, and believes she's a vital leader that is going to help the program now and in the future.
"Lila has been a rock for our team and one of the most valuable tools our team has had. Not only is she proving to be one of the best players in our league, but also one of the best players NW has ever seen. She is dedicated, committed and constantly setting the bar high for our team," she said. "She has helped instill her leadership skills in all of our teammates, and our young players can't wait until they get to prove all of their hard work too. I think we have a very promising future with our younger players as they are showing tremendous success right now and most have also not dropped a set."
Janese also had high praise for her second singles starter, Nicole Guldin. Guldin has been untouchable so far, as she is 84-8 in games played and like the entire team, hasn't dropped a set yet. Guldin's road to success has been an interesting one, Janese said.
"Nicole joined our team in 2015 with very little tennis experience but an incredible competitive personality. She is always competing against herself to be better than she was yesterday. She quickly improved and grew her passion," she said. "She plays all year round and her level continues to jump each season. She attributes her success and the teams' success to having great coaches and a team full of talented and supportive players, which helps her get better with every practice."
Trunzo, Dworzanski, Waliszewski, Erica Weber and Brielle Zimmerman are the five seniors on this year's team and Janese said her young roster looks at the five as role models.
"They are the ones that the younger players trust, look up to and turn to. Our seniors lead by example and have set our team's direction thus far in the season. They stay absolutely positive and paved a path for the love of tennis," she said.
For the Falcons, sophomore Mackenzie Patterson is the usual starter in third singles. She's only dropped eight games all year.
Sophomores Nikki Kwiatkowski and Jocelyn Fike have been dominant as a first doubles pair. The duo has only lost 11 games out of 107 games.
Dworzanski has started five of the six matches in the second doubles pairing, usually alongside Weber, who has started four out six. Janese also started junior Sydney Crangle and sophomore Katelyn Hoover in that pairing for a match.
With the team's depth and will, Janese believes her team has what it takes to be NFL Champions this season.
"These girls have the talent, skills, and dedication to achieve the title. They have always believed in their teammates, but I think they finally believe in themselves," she said.
The Falcons next match is at 4:15 p.m. today, at Grand Island.
Lila Trunzo hits a forehand shot vs. Lewiston-Porter