June 27th, 2015 1:23 am

First Posted: 8/6/2013

Pittston Area and Wyoming Area are only a stone’s throw away from one another. The respective tennis teams are pretty close as well.

Each coming off losing seasons, both the Patriots and the Warriors will be forced to move on without the senior leadership of their No. 1 player from a year ago. The two teams open the season against each other at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Hughestown.

Pittston’s Maranada Warunek and Wyoming Area’s Valerie Bott have each moved on. So that leaves a pair of young teams to battle against the likes of Wyoming Seminary in the Wyoming Valley Conference.

Kim Collins and Pittston Area will look to some younger players from last year’s team to step up and be a valuable part to the team’s 2013 success.

The Patriots will be without Warunek, who Collins praised for her on and off court mentality.

“Her tennis skill and her leadership amongst her peers will be missed,” Collins said. “Along with her aggressive style of play.”

In last season’s 2-11 campaign, the 12th-year coach was forced to throw in some new faces in hopes of gaining some experience on the court. She hopes this year will be the beneficiary of those players work last season.

“I do have some girls that got thrown in last year,” Collins said. “This year the jitters will be gone and they’ll feel a little more comfortable.”

As far as the lineup for the Patriots go this season, that remains to be seen. Pittston has one of its biggest squads in recent memory with 20 players. That will help what Collins called an open competition.

During practice last week, the girls played challenge matches under the watchful eye of the veteran coach.

“It’s an open competition and those matches can determine where we’re at,” Collins said. “I haven’t had a group that big in a long time. There are a lot of varying age levels.”

The Pittston Area girls won’t have to do much work to eclipse last season’s win-loss total. And with some of the experience last season, Collins hope that come to fruition.

“I’m certainly hoping for our win-loss record to grow from last year,” she said. “I’m hoping that a little experience will help and go a long way.”

Coming off a season which a school record for winning percentage was eclipsed, the Wyoming Area girls tennis squad will look to build on the momentum they established.

The Warriors finished the 2012 campaign with a 5-8 mark, the best in school history. And now, coach Tiffany Callaio and company expect to put their second foot forward in the 2013 season.

The team will be without last year’s lone senior, Bott. Bott played as the No. 1 for the past three seasons at Wyoming Area.

“She is a huge loss to our team,” Callaio said.

The Warriors will return a pair of solid spots in the lineup this season. A pair of sophomores, Kierstin Grillo, who played No. 2, and Anna Thomas, who was No. 3 singles, will return.

“They are both sophomores,” Callaio said. “But they have the most experience playing than anyone else.”

Wyoming Area, like last season, will be a young team. Julia Gober is the lone senior and has been on the team for four seasons.

The biggest question, according to Callaio, will be how Grillo and Thomas adapt to their new roles atop the lineup for most of the season. If that bodes well for the Warriors, the team could crack the .500 mark, something Callaio is shooting for.

“I am hoping to crack .500. Last year we ended 5-8, which was the best record the team has ever had,” she said. “It all depends on how Kierstin and Anna play higher in the lineup and how our No. 3 singles players adjust.”

The usual suspects will control the court once again this season in the Wyoming Valley Conference. Callaio and Collins each agreed that Wyoming Seminary will be a tough out. Also, Holy Redeemer, Dallas and Crestwood shouldn’t be counted out, Callaio said.

Collins admitted that there were a lot of seniors on teams from last season that will be in the same situation as Pittston Area.

“The league will lack experience this year and that’s excellent for a team like us,” Collins said. “We’re not going to be playing 10 matches with veterans all over the place. A lot of teams will look like we do.”