Indiana High School girls’ tennis coach Ray Goss knows just who can help the Indians get to the next level in the WPIAL team playoffs: themselves.
“Fortunately, the way it’s been scheduled, this was our final regular-season match,” Goss said after Indiana, the WPIAL Section 4-AA champion, dispatched Burrell, 5-0, to finish its second straight undefeated season in section play Monday at the White Township Recreation Complex. “We’ve got a week from Wednesday before the playoffs (Oct. 9). We’re going to do some intense practices, because we haven’t had a chance to practice. We’re playing match, match, match, match, and hardly any practices. … There will be some intense competition among us, which is good. It will help them get better.”
Indiana (12-1, 10-0 section) knows the team playoffs are a different ballgame. Section 4 isn’t one of the stronger groupings, and the Indians saw that last year when they lost at home, 3-2, to Brownsville in the opening round, despite being the undefeated section champions.
“It shows that we’re pretty strong, at least in conference,” Goss said of the section success.
“I tell the girls, though, we are in a weak section. We go onto WPIAL play, as evidenced by singles and doubles, I’d say the other sections in Double-A are all stronger, at least at the top, and that’s the teams that get in the playoffs, the top three teams. But this is our best team that I’ve had since I’ve been here — this is my sixth year of coaching — from top to bottom.”
So, Indiana looks to make itself better in the next week or so, with an experienced group that has its best shot at postseason team success in the last several years. The Indians also went to the playoffs when they shared the section title with Burrell two years ago.
“Last year, when we were undefeated, it was like, ‘Wow, this is so amazing,’” junior Lucy Bujdos said. “We’re our own section champs, and for it to happen again this year, we didn’t lose that many seniors last year, so a lot of the same girls are still on the team, so we all got to share in the victory together again.”
In singles play Monday, Bujdos won, 6-0, 6-0; Megan Clawson won, 6-1, 6-0; and Kate Palko won, 7-5, 5-1. Kylie Horvath and Carly Morrow took the No. 1 doubles match, 6-2, 6-2; and Margaux Marcus and Eugina Chun won the second, 6-2, 6-1.
The last pair has given Indiana more depth, another reason for their success.
“The big thing this year was three girls emerged,” Goss said of Marcus, a freshman, Chun, a junior, and Jennifer Han, a sophomore. “I had nothing to do with it. … That gave us about eight players. You need seven ,and sometimes someone’s sick or has to go to band practice or something like that, so that’s what makes us pretty solid. Three people emerged and really helped our lineup, and hopefully they’ll help us in the playoffs.”
Bujdos and Clawson, a senior, have had their own playoff experience — and have faced stronger competition — already. Bujdos won the section singles championship for the second year in a row and went to the WPIAL singles championships, and Clawson also participated in the section singles tournament. The two will team up in Wednesday’s WPIAL doubles tournament at Keystone Oaks.
“They always say, if you play someone that’s better than you, you’re going to play better in that match,” Bujdos said, “and a lot of the girls that I play against at WPIAL singles or even doubles are always really, really good. They’re from these big schools that just practice year-round. They are better, and it is really nice, though, because you learn a lot of things from those girls. It’s interesting, because you hope to see them in the future, too.”