by Clellie Allen
WAKE FOREST — Cyndi Keller may just be in her second full year coaching the Wake Forest Cougars girls tennis team, in one of the toughest tennis conferences in the state, but she’s excited.
“I have half of my players from last year returning,” Keller said. “The have been practicing hard and are serious about playing well. I think we will have a good season,” she added.
Centered around the capital city, the Cap 8 conference is tough for tennis. Outside the conference, teams can look like superstars. Inside the conference, they can struggle to get off of the bottom rung — something that has plagued Wake Forest for a while.
“Our goal this year was set by the team,” Keller said. “They decided they do not want to be in the bottom.”
To help make that happen, Keller led her girls through off-season workouts, conditioning and getting extra instruction. In the spring, several girls took lessons from a local pro to help improve their game.
The work has paid off. Moving up to the No. 1 spot in the preseason is Leslie Blaylock, a sophomore, who played in the No. 4 spot last year.
Just behind Blaylock is Elyse Tortora.
“I had Leslie and Elyse play against each other to see who would start off in the first spot,” Keller said.
Rounding out the last two positions are Chloe Pearce in at No. 3 and Maddie Pontrelli in at No. 4.
Although she wants her squad to do well, Keller is adamant on working on the non-tennis aspects, such as working and bonding together as a team.
As such, she will once again have her team pick a service project to work on.
“It’s important these girls realize we all need each other to reach common goals,” Keller said.
“Tennis is a lifetime sport. I want them to do well, but also have fun so they’ll continue to play it and stay healthy their whole lives.”