Maria Pallone was Valley’s No. 3 singles player a year ago, and thus, did not compete at the section tournament.
But Courtney Brennan and Emily Robson, who took first and second at the WPIAL Section 4-AA tournament for the Vikings in 2011, both graduated in May. So Pallone was elevated to the No. 1 player on Valley’s roster this year.
And with hard work in the offseason, Pallone has now done with Brennan and Robson did last year — qualify for the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament.
Courtney Brennan and Emily Robson occupied the top two spots on the Valley girls tennis team’s depth chart the past two seasons, and when paired together in doubles, were a PIAA qualifier in both 2010 and 2011.
But both have graduated and Viking coach Rachel Link has a theme for this year’s squad: A new legacy.
“We have to earn our success,” Link said. “First, when we step out on the court we have to believe we can win. Second, we have to earn the win. The match is never over until you shake hands. Our girls have embraced that concept beautifully. They want to start a new legacy.”
After having not won a game since 2009, Valley defeated visiting Deer Lakes, 14-7, last Friday to snap a 22-game losing streak.
First-year coach Chad Walsh – the program’s third in three seasons – saw his team bounce back from a 7-0 halftime deficit to score two second-half touchdowns and stun Deer Lakes in the Class AA Allegheny Conference.
Valley drops to Class AA from Class AAA, where the Vikings competed in the now defunct Greater Allegheny Conference the past two seasons.
But that won't be the only change, as Chad Walsh becomes the team's third head coach in as many seasons. Walsh was an assistant at Valley from 2007-10, prior to holding an assistant position at Kiski Area last season.
Walsh knows he has a long road ahead of him. The Vikings, now in the Allegheny Conference, enter the season on a 22-game losing streak, their last win coming on Oct. 3, 2009. A season ago, the Vikings went winless for the second year in a row.
"We expect to come out, be competitive and improve on last year," Walsh said.