By Brian Holtzapple
For The Daily Item
Last season Danville’s Linda Yang was one of the Valley’s best young doubles players, and she was named to The Daily Item’s all-star team for her efforts.
One year later Yang moved up to the No. 1 singles spot for the Ironmen, and after a tremendous season, she has been selected as The Daily Item’s Player of the Year.
During the year Yang, who’s only a sophomore, went 13-3 overall as Danville qualified for the District 4 team tournament and advanced into the quarterfinals.
Individually, Yang was a District 4 singles finalist and she qualified for the PIAA Tennis Championships.
“I’m glad that I was able to reach states. All the hard work I put into tennis feels like it paid off,” said Yang. “I wanted people to think that I could easily match up with girls who seemed stronger than me. I wanted them to think that technique, patience and strategy could beat sheer power.
“Mostly, I wanted people to acknowledge that I was a good tennis player,” added Yang.
After the season she just put together, people are without a doubt coming to that realization about Yang.
“Linda’s key to her success has been her focus and dedication to improvement,” said Danville coach Mary Jo Baum, who also coached Linda’s older brother, Fanchen. “Her background of living and playing with other tennis players has helped her along.
“Her greatest asset is her need to improve on specific strokes and her willingness to work on it. She would often try to help other players with their technique,” added Baum.
Yang is a serve-and-volley player who likes to stay at the baseline and wait for her opponent to make the mistakes.
That method of operation played out time and again for Yang throughout the course of the season, and she relished that aspect of her game.
“I’m a defensive baseliner. I stay in the back and hit the ball with a lot of angle and spin, and I try to get to every ball back,” said Yang. “I succeeded because I’m consistent and I make smart plays.”
Part of Yang’s intelligence on the court comes from keying on her opponent’s game and their weaknesses in order to come away with a win.
“To prepare, she played beyond our regular team practices,” said Baum. “She studies her opponents during warm-ups and she was often familiar with the type of game her opponent would play from previous matches.”
And if her sophomore season is any indication, the sky is the limit for Yang — especially after she fell in the finals of the District 4 singles tournament to top-seeded Pam Niditch of Loyalsock, 6-1, 6-1.
“My expectations were that I was going to win most of my matches (this year), except against certain people who were better than me,” said Yang. “My success does rile me up a bit — I expect myself to get farther, hopefully.
“I’m excited to go into next season, after all. It’s going to be hard because everyone is coming back and they’ll be some upcoming girls that will make next season a lot harder. Mostly, I hope to get to the district semis again.”
“(Her season) should set the stage for the next two years despite tough opponents moving along side her,” said Baum. “She’s got a great foundation, and maturity will help her develop further.”
Coach of the Year
Less than seven months after Selinsgrove coach Duke Fravel was honored for his efforts to turn one Seals program around, he pulled the same feat again.
Fravel is The Daily Item’s Coach of the Year after he led Selinsgrove’s girls tennis team to its best record in years, and also to its first ever appearance in the District 4 team tournament.
“It was a very satisfying season. I think we did very well considering the injuries we had,” said Fravel, who was named the boys coach of the year back in June. “The program is just going to keep improving. I have a lot of potential on the team. It was very uplifting and I couldn’t be more pleased.”
Selinsgrove went 9-5 in the conference (9-8 overall) this season, and the Seals made it to the quarterfinals of the district team tourney. In Fravel’s first year with the program, the Seals had six wins.
In the three seasons before Fravel came on board, the Seals mustered just nine wins combined.
“Being the boys coach, I would watch the girls and I knew there was potential there. I knew they were heading in the right direction, I just pushed them a little bit harder,” said Fravel.
“They rose to the occasion. We did pretty good and we doubled our wins. I think the girls will keep plugging along and it will be a continuing thing,” Fravel added. “Qualifying for districts was the high point. None of the girls had been there before, so it was really exciting.”