Twinsburg girls tennis flourishing despite graduation losses

Steve Batko
Correspondent

Given the opportunity, the Twinsburg girls tennis team will seize it.

That seems to be how this team rolls.

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Despite suffering huge graduation losses, the new-look Tiger squad is flourishing this fall under head coach Chris Kuzas and second-year assistant coach Anne Gorman.

With some athletes being used in new positions in the lineup as well as a host of newcomers to the varsity program — coupled with the COVID-19 protocols — the preseason and the early season schedule would surely produce some hiccups here and there.

The Tigers are just fine.

With 3-0 record in the Suburban League National Conference and a 5-4 mark overall, Twinsburg has more than held its own against a quality schedule, but it is a slate that will get more demanding.

“I think the kids are really excited to have the chance to play this year and to have a relatively normal schedule,” said Kuzas. “They really enjoy having some piece of normalcy through all the uncertainty of what the school year will look like.”

Graduation wasn’t kind to a Tiger team that was second in the league at 6-1 and 12-8 overall in 2019.

Key graduates include the doubles team of Sahaj Bhambra and Allison Riley, plus the second doubles team of Krishna Patel and Hannah Moeliano. In addition, first singles player Aarushi Singh also departed.

Standout senior returnees include Ashley Veverka (first doubles), Grace McIlroy (second or third singles), and Shreya Kusumanchi (second or third singles).

McIlroy was last year’s Most Improved Player on the team.

According to Kuzas, top newcomers to watch are freshman Julia Bazarov (first singles) and senior Harika Polamarasetti (second doubles).

In addition, junior Ella Bleyl has excelled in doubles play.

Viki Lin, Riley Floro, and Natalie Goodman have also contributed in doubles action.

“The big wins of the season so far have been 3-2 wins against all three conference opponents so far - Nordonia, Cuyahoga Falls and North Royalton,” said Kuzas. “Both Falls and North Royalton came down to the very last matches.”

“Against Falls, Shreya (Kusumanchi) came back from down 0-3 in the third set to win the singles match,” Kuzas added. “Against North Royalton, freshman first singles Julia Bazarov won a three-set match to get the victory for the team.”

The losses have come at the hands of strong teams.

Twinsburg had 3-2 losses against Medina and Willoughby South, plus two 4-1 losses to powers like Richfield Revere and Medina Highland.

“We again have a tough schedule with teams like Revere, Highland, Brecksville, Hudson and Walsh,” noted Kuzas. “We have inexperience at first singles, so our record will depend a lot on doubles and the seniors at the other singles spots.”

“Brecksville remains at the top of the league and Hudson will be right there with them this year,” he added. “Both are very tough, well-coached teams. I expect us to be competing for second or third place in the league though.”

Kuzas pointed to that tough schedule.

“The next couple of weeks have matches against Brecksville (Sept. 9), at Mayfield (Sept. 10), Stow (Sept. 14), at NDCL (Sept. 15) and Wadsworth (Sept. 16),” he said.

“The three conference matches in there will go a long way to showing where we stand,” added Kuzas, alluding to the tests against Brecksville, Stow and Wadsworth.

Twinsburg’s first doubles team of Veverka and Bleyl is 8-1 this fall.

“The first doubles team has a very impressive 8-1 record so far and their only loss came in a three-set match against Revere,” stated Kuzas. “A few tough matchups against Brecksville, Hudson, Walsh and Kenston will show if they are ready to compete for a spot at districts.”

While facing some of the top players in the area, the first singles slot can sometimes be deceptive, but Bazarov is collecting tremendous experience through these wars.

“Julia is having a great learning experience at first singles,” said Kuzas. “So far, she’s played some of the best the area has to offer including Morgan Dobos (Revere) and Elizabeth Stuart (Medina).”

Bazarov also had a tough 6-3, 6-3 loss to Willoughby South standout Ritika Chakraborty.