NEW FRANKLIN Manchester's girls tennis program has made great strides under the tutelage of Bob Irwin, who has done wonders since he came on board two years ago.
After going 2-19 in his initial season, the lady Panthers registered their first winning mark since 2009 finishing 11-9 a year ago and have continued that success in 2017 with 10-5 mark entering their final week of action.
"Our season is going very well," stated Irwin, who played collegiate tennis at Baldwin-Wallace. "We have won all six of our close 3-2 matches, and have had some great individual play lead to those results.
"Against St. Thomas Aquinas, the match was tied 2-2, and came down to Katrina Bell at third singles, who was able to comeback and win her match, 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. Against Copley, the match was tied 2-2 and came down to Lydia Marek and Kaylee Garman at second doubles, who were able to comeback and win their match, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4."
In addition to success on the courts, the numbers continue to grow in the program in the delight of Irwin. The Panthers roster has 24 members, including eight letter-winners.
Among the returnees are seniors Erika Bell, Trudie Christy, Jessica Cobb, Faith Hopkins and Raven Key; juniors Kayleigh Harbour and Olivia Farrell; and sophomores Anna Rector.
"Erika (Bell) and Trudie (Christy) have been our top performers ," said Irwin. "Erika plays first singles and is 11-5 so far, and Trudie plays first doubles/second singles and is 13-4. They have made a huge impact on our team. They are two of the most athletic girls in the school, they listen and are coachable and are good leaders.
"The depth of our team improved a lot in the offseason through hard work. The most notable improvements were made by Brooke Esterle, Jessica Cobb, Anna Rector, Kaylee Garmen, and Lydia Marek."
As the campaign dwindles down, Irwin has some realistic expectations in mind, "We hope to continue to learn about the sport, show good sportsmanship and have fun," he said. "This year's team is a great group that gets along very well, listens well, and is fun to coach."
Manchester got postseason play underway sectional/district tournament underway earlier this week at Harvard Park in Canton.