Tallmadge girls tennis makes strides this fall

Michael Leonard
Kent Weeklies
Tallmadge girls tennis seniors, from left, Anna Siesel, Elena Kozma and Claudia Palmer, celebrate during Tallmadge's senior night.

Tallmadge girls tennis coach Steven Strasser knows how tough life can be in a league as loaded as the Suburban League American Conference.

Thus, the coach has been realistic about seeing his team improve from year to year.

To that end, Strasser is pleased with what he's seen from the Blue Devils in 2020.

"Overall, it's been a successful year for us," Strasser said. "The improvement has been there. That's been our goal from the start of the season, just to improve and be competitive. That's big for us.

"Two years ago, I think we only won two matches. Now we're hoping to get to 10 wins by the end of the season."

Tallmadge's record stood at 10-8 overall and 2-4 in the American Conference heading into the final week of the regular season. At the Suburban League Tournament Sept. 25 at Medina Highland, Tallmadge finished fifth in the American Conference.

Highland won the American Conference title, while Revere was second.

Though the results might seem modest, Strasser has noticed some grit and fight from his team.

"The Suburban League is a good conference all way from top to bottom," Strasser said. "We've done what I've wanted us to do in the league. Against top teams, we are hanging in there and we are battling, even if we're not winning matches That's been great to see.

"We've gotten a lot deeper in the last two years. Maybe at the top of the lineup, we're not yet winning against top teams, but we're getting a lot of wins and competitive play from third singles and doubles. Against Copley, we weren't able to win the match, but we played them hard. It's a big improvement for us."

Leading the charge for the Blue Devils is senior first singles player Anna Siesel. Siesel is a fourth-year letterwinner and playing her third year at first singles.

Siesel leads the Blue Devils with a 12-10 record despite facing top opposition all year.

"She's kind of been a leader. Anna has been the one who has stepped up her game so much this year," Strasser said. "First singles is such a hard place to be because everyone, even if they don't have a lot of depth, has at least one good player.

"She really kind of sets the tone for us. She came from down a set in a big match against Kent for us that we ended up winning 3-2."

Siesel finished fifth in the league tournament at first singles. After losing her first match in three sets vs. Aurora, she won her second match against Kent.

Senior Claudia Palmer, a third-year letterwinner, has also made big steps this year.

Palmer has teamed with sophomore Marley Queen as Tallmadge's first doubles team this fall, and they have gone 10-10 as a pair. The duo also took fifth place at the Suburban League tournament.

Tallmadge's third senior is Elena Kozma, who has scored nine wins this season while splitting time between singles and doubles.

"She's versatile," Strasser said. "Last year, she played third singles, but I think her game might be better suited for doubles. She's found her spot there."

Teaming with sophomore Vicky Vue at the Suburban League tournament, Palmer took fourth in the league tournament. The duo beat Copley in the first round but lost to Highland in the semifinals and lost to Revere in the third-place match.

Junior Emily Rotunda is back for her third season at second singles and has scored 11 wins this season. Rotunda finished seventh at the league tournament.

Junior Aviana Miller has been Tallmadge's primary third singles player, as she took fourth in the league tournament.

Tallmadge has also received contributions from freshman Frankie Ridenour, who has gone 7-5 in her first season of high school tennis.

Tallmadge had its match with Stow-Munroe Falls Sept. 28 rained out. On Sept. 29, the Blue Devils took on Wadsworth and pulled out a 3-2 victory, thanks to a sweep of the singles matched.

At first singles, Siesel scored a straight sets win over Wadsworth's Laryn Pelkey 6-3, 6-2, while Rotunda rallied after losing her first set at second singles to beat Morgan Raymond 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Miller clinched the win at third singles, beating Grace Pantolone 6-4, 6-2.

Wadsworth won both doubles matches, as Autumn Brown and Ava Madachik defeated Palmer and Queen 6-1, 6-0 at first doubles, while Maggie Galvin and Lexi Dunn beat Ridenour and Kozma 6-1, 6-1 at second doubles.

Tallmadge will open the postseason Oct. 6 at the Division II sectional tournament at Strongsville.

Strasser is keeping the goals attainable for the Blue Devils in the postseason, noting Seisel and Rotunda will play a doubles team.

"That one is a tough sectional," Strasser said. "Anna and Emily, if they play really well, I think they've got a chance to surprise some people. I think a lot of schools aren't expecting that much from us. If we can be competitive in the first match on the courts, it's a good thing for us."