BETHLEHEM – Jim Thorpe coach Sam Lux has seen the growth and development in his tennis team.
And so have his Olympians.
Their effort, energy and commitment have been vital to the program, and played a large role in helping Jim Thorpe win seven of its final eight regular season matches to secure a spot in the District 11 Class 2A team tournament.
It was a run that helped the Olympians earn the No. 6 seed in the 2A bracket, and turn a 3-5 start into a 10-6 final record.
“Honestly, I feel like we haven’t been closer,” said senior Hailey Trine. “Everyone is definitely doing well, and I’m proud of each and every one of them. We played some pretty tough teams, but no matter what, we all stick together and I think that’s what matters most.”
It was another tough task that awaited in Monday’s quarterfinal round, where third seed Bethlehem Catholic prevailed with a 5-0 victory over Jim Thorpe.
But it was also another opportunity for the Olympians to show just how far they’ve come this season.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the team,” said Lux. “Just watching their progress from the beginning of the year until now. Our No. 2 doubles team (Ada Finsel and Diamond Alvear), both of those girls started just this year, and they’re out there on their own and doing really well.
“Big credit to Norb (Lienhard, who led the program for nearly three decades) and Dennis (McLean, assistant coach) and all the coaches throughout the program; we’ve always had a really, really tough and competitive tennis team.”
Lux – who took over in the spring of 2021 after a stellar playing career at Jim Thorpe – has played a big role in helping the squad sustain that success, which also included a 10-6 record a year ago and a berth in the district tournament .
The Olympians had to replace the likes of No. 1 singles player Gabby Nunez, the Times News Tennis Player of the Year, along with top doubles pair Kaylinn Trine and Taylor Saba.
Tara McLean, who moved up from No. 2 singles to the No. 1 spot in the lineup and has a 12-4 singles record, has enjoyed a great season, qualifying for the Class 2A singles tournament as the eighth seed. The senior faced off with Cara Magliochetti – the district runner-up the last two years who has a career singles record of 67-22 – on Monday, with Magliochetti posting a 6-0, 6-0 win.
The Golden Hawks (10-6) also got victories from Lena Windhagen, who prevailed 6-1, 6-0 over Trine at No. 2 singles, and Madi Lennert, a 6-1, 6-0 winner over Ashlynn Miller in the No. 3 spot.
Like Lux, Bethlehem Catholic coach George Harmanos praised the work of his squad to once again qualify for the postseason.
“This year, we actually had a relatively new team, even as far as positions,” said Harmanos. “Cara came back as No. 1, but we lost our No. 2 from last year, we lost our No. 3 singles from last year, so there was a lot of uncertainty when the season began. “We had exchange student Lena (Windhagen, from Germany) coming in, and we didn’t know what she was going to bring, but she’s done a great job for us, and then we had to move a girl up from doubles into singles for No. 3, and Madi (Lennert) actually has played doubles the three previous years for the team and did a nice job, but it’s a big difference between singles and doubles, and she’s performed really well.”
Ava Burkhart and Claire Zara posted a 6-1, 6-1 win over Chloe Tantala and Keira Reese at No. 1 doubles for the Golden Hawks, while Josie Fiorini and Elizabeth Schock defeated Ada Finsel and Diamond Alvear in the No. 2 doubles match .
Trine and McLean have Jim Thorpe’s only seniors in the lineup. They have set an example for the underclassmen to follow in the future.
“They all came to practice eager to learn, and you can see it from where they were at the beginning of the season to where they are now,” said Lux. “It’s really great to see. And you can see the passion and the interest in the sport just continuing to grow, and I think that’s what I’m most excited about, to see, is the girls picking it up and seeing just how fun tennis can be. I think as they start to do that, they start to improve and that’s really great to see.”
… Bethlehem Catholic is in the District 11 team tournament for the 25th year in a row. The Golden Hawks have been in the last seven district finals.
… Becahi will be the winner of the Saucon Valley-Blue Mountain match today in the semifinals.
… Jim Thorpe and Bethlehem Catholic will both look forward to the District 11 doubles tournament, which begins next Monday with the first round and quarterfinal matches at Lehigh University.
Bethlehem Cath. 5, Jim Thorpe 0
Cara Magliochetti (BC) def. Tara McLean, 6-0, 6-0; Lena Windhagen (BC) def. Hailey Trine, 6-1. 6-0; Madi Lennert (BC) def. Ashlynn Miller, 6-1, 6-0.
Ava Burkart/Claire Zaza (BC) def. Chloe Tantala/Keira Reese, 6-1, 6-1; Josie Fiorini/Elizabeth Schock (BC) def. Ada Finsel/Diamond Alvear, 6-1, 6-0.