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Published: October 01, 2009 10:56 pm 

HS TENNIS: Grand Island netters seek perfection

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — It might sound silly, but the Grand Island girls tennis prefer the role of underdogs.

So much so that they’ve used the rallying cry to get out to a 9-0 start in Niagara Frontier League play.

“Nobody I think expected us to be this good,” senior Kaitie Samland said. “Nobody saw us coming. That’s the way we like it.

“But nobody new about our secret weapons either,” fellow senior Alex Buscaglia responded with a smile.

Grand Island had eight seniors returning to the team this fall and just before the season began it added two more in home schooler Danielle Canazzi and German foreign exchange student Merle Schmid.

“Those two surprises really added to our depth and kind of put us over the top,” coach Julie Neville said. “We don’t really have a star player. We have four or five players that are pretty even and everyone helps us get points.”

Canazzi, who played first and second singles at Kenmore East as a sophomore, assumed the No. 1 spot in the lineup after preseason challenge matches. Buscaglia and Samland, three-year starters, round out the singles lineup.

Schmid and junior Julie Hasselbeck are at first doubles and the duo of senior Kim Asbach and junior Anna Ferrante play second doubles.

“We’re all pretty equal actually — we just have different strengths and weaknesses,” Samland said. “That’s what makes us so good. Even some of the JV players are pretty good.”

Having Neville, a former player at Xavier, as a coach doesn’t hurt either.

“She really knows what she is doing,” Samland said. “She knows the game.”

Buscaglia added, “Her pep talks are really good, too. Whenever I’m down, I just talk to her and usually I start winning right away. She’s motivating.”

With five matches remaining, the Vikings are focused on finishing what they’ve started.

“We’ll have to step it up because everyone knows we’re the team to beat now,” Samland said.

“I know it won’t be easy and I don’t want to jinx it, but I think we will go undefeated,” Buscaglia added.

Neville is unsure how she is going to enter her players into sectionals, but it’s likely that Buscaglia and Samland will pair up because of their experience playing doubles together. The tandem were partners in 2007, the last time GI went unbeaten in NFL play.