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After making All-State last year, junior Sam Riordan returns No. 1 singles position for the Hand girls’ tennis team, which has a record of 10-0 through the first half of its regular season. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Sophomore No. 2 singles player Lindsay Riordan is one of many talented athletes on a deep roster for the Tigers’ girls’ tennis squad this spring. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Source | Buy This Photo)
Junior Anna Lang is back for her third season as a No. 1 doubles competitor with the Hand girls’ tennis team. Last week, the Tigers earned wins versus Foran, Amity, and Mercy to stay undefeated on the year. (Photo by Catherine Avalone/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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The Hand girls’ tennis team saw many familiar faces return to its lineup this year, while also introducing an influx of freshmen who are thriving in the varsity spotlight. With the veterans and newcomers meshing, the Tigers have powered their way to perfection through the opening half of their campaign.
Last season, Head Coach Kitty Palmer’s club finished with a mark of 22-1 after winning its second straight Southern Connecticut Conference title and then advancing to the final of the Class M State Tournament. This spring, the Tigers own an unblemished record of 10-0, having most recently earned a 6-1 win versus Foran, followed by a 7-0 victory against Amity the following day, and then a 7-0 shutout over Mercy on April 25.
While there is still plenty of tennis to be played, Coach Palmer feels good about the way this are shaping up this year, particularly the emergence of her rookies.
“I am pleased with how things have started so far,” said Palmer. “We have three freshmen in the starting lineup, and they’ve done well with a lot of pressure on them. They have experience in big matches through USTA, which has certainly helped them.”
Catherine Aranow is leading Hand as its lone captain and only senior this season. She also forms one half of the No. 3 doubles spot in the lineup. Palmer admires Aranow’s ability to guide the Tigers without the support of any fellow seniors and says that everyone on the squad is following her lead.
“I give her credit for sticking it out as the one senior, but the girls love her,” Palmer said of Aranow. “She’s been a great addition to the lineup, and she’s given us a lot of good work and wins at No. 3 doubles.”
Hand is featuring a sister act at the top of its singles lineup. Junior Sam Riordan, a 2018 All-State selection, plays No. 1 singles for the Tigers. Her sister, sophomore Lindsay Riordan, is backing her up at the No. 2 singles position.
“Sam is probably one of the top-three singles players in the SCC. She hasn’t played the top-two players yet, so it will be interesting to see how she does. She is a leader and doing well for us,” Coach Palmer said. “Lindsay has had a solid season and hope she continues to come through for us the rest of the year.”
Rounding out Hand’s singles lineup are junior Anne Barrett and sophomore Eileen Chen, who play the No. 3 and No. 4 positions, respectively.
“Anne is the best No. 3 singles player in the SCC without question,” said Palmer. “This is Eileen’s first time in the starting lineup. She has only improved and gotten more confident as this season has gone on.”
Looking at Hand’s tandem’s, junior Anna Lang and freshman Claire Langille are playing No. 1 doubles, sophomore Paige Van Ostenbridge and freshman Isabella Vejar compete out of the No. 2 slot, while Aranow is joining forces with both sophomore Eliza Beccia and freshman Breanna Colonese-DiBello at No. 3.
“This is Anna’s third year at No. 1 doubles, and her and Claire are a new, but successful team,” Palmer said. “Isabella and Paige have been a good twosome and have come through in every match. Isabella has a good net game, and Paige has a good serve. Catherine has done well in her pairing, no matter her partner.”
In last week’s victories, Hand was bolstered by multiple wins from Sam Riordan, Lindsay Riordan, Chen, and Barrett on the singles court. The Tigers also received multiples victories from their doubles duos of Lang and Langille, Vejar and Van Ostenbridge, and Aranow and Colonese-DiBello.
As they dive into the heart of their season, Coach Palmer and company have their sights set on maintaining their perch atop the SCC throne. If all goes well there, the Tigers will be striving to conclude their campaign with two team titles in their grasp.
“We feel that Amity and Lauralton Hall will be our biggest rivals in the SCC. Both teams are really good,” said Palmer. “For states, we moved down from Class L to M, and we just hope to stay healthy and be a major contender.”
From the Sidelines
This is Kitty Palmer’s 19th season as head coach of the Hand girls’ tennis team.
Thus far this year, the Tigers have earned 7-0 wins versus Guilford, Sacred Heart Academy, Sheehan, Hamden, Branford, and Mercy, in addition to wins against Hall (5-2), Shelton (4-0), Foran (6-1), and Amity (6-1).
For the rest of the regular season. Hand has home matches against Lauralton Hall, Cheshire, and Sacred Heart on its schedule. The Tigers will also hit the road to face Amity, North Haven, Law, and Guilford.
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