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Hornet girls tennis focus is on safety

Emmaus girls tennis coach Robert Dragotta places the 2020 season into a perspective unlike any previous year.

“I am just happy to be able to get 29 players out of the house and playing tennis this summer,” Dragotta said of the 13 varsity and 16 junior varsity players who will represent the Green Hornets this fall.

Coming into the 2020 campaign, there has been a focus on safety.

“We social distance and use hand sanitizer,” said the coach, who is in his second year at the helm of the Emmaus team. “The teams meet at separate times and have separate baskets of balls. My only concern is keeping everyone safe.”

In any athletic competition there is a winner and a loser. Of course, Dragotta wants his team to be successful, but it’s not as important as it may have been in seasons past.

“This year isn’t about winning and losing,” he said. “It is about exercise and safety. Exercise is so important to mental health.”

Dragotta used the opening week of practice to hold challenge matches to determine positions for a season that as of last week was still in jeopardy of being canceled.

Emmaus will be relying on a trio of veteran players who have performed well during the last two or three seasons. Junior Jocelyn Chow has been elevated from the number two singles position last year to the number one slot this year. Chow has been outstanding during her two years on the court. During her freshman year, she achieved a sterling 11-5 mark and acquired the nickname “cruise control.”

“She almost doesn’t need any coaching,” said former coach Brian Bleam

Last year, Chow captured third place at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Tournament.

Senior Mia Columbus has emerged as Emmaus’ second singles player and Misa Hollinger received the nod for the third singles spot, according to Dragotta.

The coach noted his doubles teams are fluid, but he has made some decisions during the first week of practice. The top doubles team features Riley Stuckey and Krissy Heilenman. Teya Gougoustamos and Shelby Carter comprise the next doubles squad, followed by the duo of Julia Marks and Indira Tatikola. Two additional duos - Payton McGlory and Alyssa Mugavero, and Eva Patt and Elaine McAllister - round out the doubles tandems.

“Not all doubles challenge matches are finished,” Dragotta said. “This is where we are at right now.”

When asked to assess his team’s strength, the coach replied succinctly.

“All the girls work hard and get along,” said Dragotta.

PRESS PHOTO BY NANCY SCHOLZ Joceylyn Chow is expected to move into the No. 1 singles position on this year's Emmaus varsity girls tennis team.