GFS tennis players: more than stellar athletes

Sports November 10, 2010 0 Comments

GFS tennis players: more than stellar athletes

Jenna Goldstein

by Herm Rogul
Jenna Goldstein, a 5-8 senior from Mt. Airy, has made a name for herself as captain and No. 1 player on Germantown Friends School’s thriving girls tennis team.

“Jenna has a habit,” coach Jessica Smith said, “of smacking her thigh and saying, ‘Come on, Jenna!’ If you didn’t know her name before a match, you will know it. She focuses and she turns situations around. She is the best captain I’ve had with our Girl Tigers.”

Goldstein said it is always her right thigh.

“I have to calm myself down,” she said. “No one else smacks their thigh and talks to herself. They make fun of me.”

She had a 4-1 record at No. 1 singles in late October.

Olivia Fichter, No. 2: “Jenna has a deadly crosscourt backhand, she is dangerous at the net and she places her serves well. She is a very good captain. She raises the energy and gives us good tips.”

Haley Abbott

Haley Abbott, No. 3: “Jenna brings energy. She wants us to work hard and have fun.”

Goldstein started tennis at the Germantown Cricket Club. “Dan Dotsey has been my coach,” she said. “He works strategy with me. I had surgery on my right wrist and had to re-learn all of my strokes.”

Goldstein has attended GFS since kindergarten.

“I love it,” she said. “The kids are down to earth. My favorite teacher is Meg Rabinowitz, English. She has really improved my writing. She relates well with students.”

College? “I definitely won’t be studying chemistry or physics. Maybe communications or journalism.”

Goldstein this summer worked at the Arthur Ashe Tennis Center.

“The Future Stars program has underprivileged kids who show great talent. I worked with kids who weren’t that good. I enjoyed it.”

Jenna’s mother, Debra, an environmentalist, plays guitar and writes songs. And, James says, always knows the right thing to say.

Her dad, Jay, is president of Valley Green Bank. He introduced Jenna to tennis.

“My brother Greg is in the ninth grade at GFS,” Jenna said. “He plays guitar and he rows on the Schuylkill. He is a really sweet kid. He is the first to apologize after we fight over something silly.”

Olivia Fichter

Olivia Fichter, a 5-7 freshman from Chestnut Hill, has played a little tennis this season for Germantown Friends School. She has won matches in 20 or 25 minutes.

“I get focused,” she said, “and I want to get it over with. I go over and cheer my teammates, loudly. I get pumped. I’m mainly a squash player, so I can put in drop shots and I have a slice backhand. The older girls have been really supportive.”

Coach Jessica Smith: “One match, the other girls came over to me after their first set. Olivia sat down. Her match was over in 20 minutes. She has spin on  her slices, from squash. She is nationally ranked in squash.”

Senior captain Jenna Goldstein: “Olivia is great at placing her shots. She is so sweet.”

Junior Haley Abbott: “Olivia is more of a spins and angles player, from squash. She has a very cool aura about her.”

Fichter recently turned 15. She was ranked No. 1 nationally in squash for girls under 15. She is now No. 3 in girls under 17. She hopes to make the USA team for an under 19 world tournament in Cairo, Egypt, next summer.

“There is women’s pro squash,” Olivia said. “The top l0 make good money, but it’s nothing like women’s tennis.”

She has taken squash lessons from the Baldwin School’s Karen Kronemeyer and done fitness work with Penn Charter coach Damon Leedale Brown.

Fichter transferred from Springside to GFS.

“It was academically more challenging,” she said, “and it is coed, which I like. My favorite teacher has been Will Penny, seventh grade English. He taught me how to write in great depth with more details. We have a close relationship.”

Fichter gets mostly A’s. In 2014, she will select a college which offers squash.

Olivia does a lot of babysitting.

“I like playing with kids,” she said. “I don’t mind getting dirty.”

Fichter said parents Bayard and Stacy are supportive and loving, not pushy.

“They have told me,” she said, “that the minute I don’t enjoy squash and tennis, I can put down my racquet and walk away. I know kids who burned out because their parents put pressure on them to do well in sports.

“My half-brother Sam (Penn Charter, Woodlynde) is pretty much a comedian. He picks me up when I have a bad match and I’m moody.”

Her bad matches are rare.

Haley Abbott, a 5-4 _ junior from Montgomeryville, who entered late October with a 6-0 record in No. 3 singles for the 5-1 Germantown Friends School girls tennis team.

When the season ends, she will get back up on her horse. “Poppy is a great horse,” Haley said. “He is shy and nervous around strangers, but, once he gets to know you, he is very friendly.”

Summer tennis lessons and tournaments made Abbott mentally tougher.

“I couldn’t close out matches before,” she said. “I used to get frustrated. I try to execute what the coach asks.”

Coach Jessica Smith: “Anything I tell Haley, she can do. She has a precise hard forehand down the line. Off the court, she is a funny kid. We have a lot of funny kids.”

Senior captain Jenna Goldstein: “Haley plays similarly to me, so we can help each other. We’re very close. Haley is real caring and very selfless.”

Freshman Olivia Fichter: “Haley has improved a lot. She is extremely fast, going from the back. She is very level-headed and focused.”

Abbott said she chose GFS for the academics and the friendly environment. Her favorite teachers are Jim Barron, history (“pretty cool”) and LucyBell Jarka-Sellers, Latin (“passionate”).

Parents Cindy Yule and Tom Abbott attend every match they can. Haley hears their cheers.

“My mother and I played doubles in a winter league,” Haley said. “We won some, lost some. My mother played better than her friends.

“My sister Emily Abbott is 13 and she is good in several sports. Emily is a very loving, bubbly person.”

Look for more profiles by Herm Rogul here and online at chestnuthilllocal.com

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