Sophomore Kelly Dennis focuses on a stroke during one of the first practices of the Chestnut Hill College tennis season. (Photo by Tom Utescher)

by Tom Utescher

With no major shake-ups in the Chestnut Hill College women’s tennis program, it should be pretty much business as usual for the Griffins, although the crew now has an additional year of experience and is hoping to improve its fortunes within the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.

Junior Nastia Shcherbakova will be back in the first singles spot, and other top contenders are sophomore Kelly Dennis and juniors Maria Parapouras and Danielle Knott. Shcherbakova and Parapouras add some international flavor, the former a native of Belarus, while the later hails from Australia.

In the East Region of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA), Shcherbakova was ranked as high as fifth last season, and Dennis was named Rookie of the Year. In addition to playing singles, they were partners in the first doubles flight throughout the season.

Junior Gina Doherty and sophomore Olivia Stephenson are the other returning players for head coach Albert Stroble, who was named CACC Coach of the Year last year. His now-familiar assistants are Drew Silverman and Chestnut Hill Academy graduate Ryan Gargullo.

Griffins freshman Alexis Puhl didn’t have to travel nearly as far to attend CHC as most of her teammates; the Girls High graduate grew up in Roxborough. She was part of a high school doubles combo that won the Philadelphia Public League championship, and she helped her team reach the finals of the PIAA District 12 team tournament.

Another talented rookie is Morgan Oeschle from Coopersburg, Pa., just above Quakertown.

“She needs to make the adjustment to college tennis,” Stroble said. “but just in terms of her strokes she’s as good as anyone we have.”

The Griffins’ skipper sees Concordia College of suburban New York and Goldey Beacom of Wilmington, De. as the heavy hitters within the conference. They’re likely to have a healthy complement of talented foreign players, as will non-league opponents such as Rider University and Queens College.

Last season, CHC put up a record of 13-9 overall and 5-3 in conference play. Off the court, Shcherbakova, Dennis, and Parapouras earned All-Academic Team honors from the ITA, leading the Griffins to a team grade-point average of 3.34.