Key coach singles out successful doubles teams

April 22, 1993|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,Contributing Writer

Francis Scott Key girls tennis coach Donna Baker often emphasizes the importance of doubles, and her team appears to be getting the message.

The Eagles won 16 of their first 18 doubles matches en route to winning overall five of their first six matches this season.

Baker loves to play doubles. A winner of several tournaments in doubles compet- ition, she said pairings that look strange can turn out powerful.

"You can put one stronger tennis player with a weaker player, teach strategy and they can come up in better shape," said Baker.

Doubles also carries weight at Key because few players stick with tennis all year. Most, according to Baker, pick up the racket on March 1 and put it down when the season ends. Therefore, major stars do not often emerge at Uniontown.

The Eagles, however, have fared well since Baker took over in 1990. She emphasized doubles from the start, and the Eagles took off.

Key went from a doormat in 1989 to the surprise Monocacy Valley Athletic League champion in 1990 thanks, in part, to the play of two strong doubles teams. The same formula still works for Key.

The coach wasn't sure, however, what would work this season. With only three days of on-court practice before the start of the season, Baker admitted to feeling a little uneasy.

"I was hoping for .500," said Baker. "I [thought] I'd take it game-by-game."

So far, the games have been good ones. The Eagles' No. 1 doubles pairing from last year, Jen Adler and Jenny Baker, returned and won five of their first six matches after hovering around .500 last year.

Maureen Ritzcey and Robin Day -- last year's No. 3 team -- occupy the second spot. They stayed perfect through five matches.

Dawn Blacksten and Lindsay Bowman split time with Amy Whitfield and Julie Devilbiss in the third spot. The first pair is 2-0 and the second 2-1.

Baker often rotates teams in the three doubles spots. In Tuesday's big victory over South Hagerstown, Ritzcey and Day moved to No. 3 to make room for Paula Koontz and Heather Stinson at No. 2.

Koontz and Stinson spent much of the season at Nos. 1 and 2 singles, respectively. Baker thought moving them to doubles and shifting the Ritzcey/Day pair would help the team.

She was right -- the Eagles won, 3-2.

"[The doubles success] makes it a lot easier," said Jenny Baker. "The pressure's not there. You can just focus on your match."

Francis Scott Key scored 3-2 victories in three of its first five wins. The Eagles went 3-for-3 in doubles in each of the 3-2 wins.

Adler said the team is not taking the doubles' success for granted.

"In a lot of our matches, we rely a lot on the doubles," said Adler. "There's a lot of pressure on us, [but]

we just go out and play."

Adler and Jenny Baker both said the fact that the teammates like each other leads to a good on-court relations.

Adler and Baker played well at times last year as the No. 1 team, but this year everything has come together -- so far.

"I just think we work well together," said Jenny Baker. "We know our abilities, and we know what we have to avoid."

The Adler/Baker team also switched strategies this year, employing a Canadian style of doubles. That puts the second player on the same side of the court as the server.

Opponents of the Adler/Baker duo seemed perplexed at times, and coach Baker favors the new strategy as long as it's successful.

"It leaves more holes, but they cover them well," said the coach. "It's very confusing for the other team if they've never seen that style."

For the entire team, the toughest part of the schedule lies ahead. But Baker said the team is on course.

"We play a lot of 'beat-the-coach,' " said Baker. "They're winning."

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