BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Getting better throughout the campaign was the goal for the Shenendehowa girls’ tennis team this fall. After losing 10 seniors from last year’s team, head coach Bill MacArthur expected his Plainsmen to experience a rebuilding year.
That’s probably putting it mildly. Paige Ratsep, the team’s No. 1 singles player as a sophomore, is more direct.
“We thought it was going to be really rough,” Ratsep said.
A 10-3 league record and a well-earned No. 3 seed for the Section II Class AA playoffs later, it’s safe to say the Plainsmen drastically overachieved in 2015. While each of his players have improved this season and Shenendehowa has shown off more depth than expected, MacArthur said the biggest reason for his team’s surprising season has been its most surprising player.
“Sydney Quinn, that’s been the big difference for us,” he said.
A senior, Quinn served this season as Shenendehowa’s No. 2 singles player, accruing a record of 9-7 at that spot between league and non-league matches. While that record is far from flawless, two things need to be taken into account when Quinn’s mark is examined.
First off, her presence at the No. 2 spot has bumped several Plainsmen down the lineup a peg, helping them to play at a more comfortable level.
Secondly, before this season, Quinn had not played tennis since she was a freshman on Shenendehowa’s junior varsity team.
“She’s given us a boost that we wouldn’t have gotten,” said MacArthur, whose team’s sectional run starts next week.
“Without her,” Ratsep said, “who knows where we’d be right now.”
Quinn gave up tennis after her freshman season to focus on basketball, a sport in which she is one of the top players for Shenendehowa. It did not take long, though, for Quinn to start to itch to return to tennis.
“Really, even in the year I quit, I missed it,” Quinn said. “But, last year, I was a little afraid to come back because I didn’t know if it would be OK.”
Her friends on the team encouraged her to give it a shot for this season, telling her she’d be welcomed back.
“That was awesome,” said Quinn, who enlisted her parents and friends to help her this past summer to get ready for her return to tennis, which she had not even played recreationally the past couple years.
Her skills came back quickly, and she was penciled into the team’s starting lineup almost immediately as the No. 2 singles player despite lacking any varsity experience. Being able to move Quinn into that spot helped the team’s morale, MacArthur said, as she was a player the rest of the team immediately looked up to upon her return.
“The better people you can have around, it permeates throughout the team,” MacArthur said. “You need people to look up to, everyone does.”
“She’s been such a good player for us. She’s an amazing athlete,” Ratsep said. “She’s gotten so many wins for us.”
Quinn’s most impressive performance came Oct. 2 against Saratoga Springs, in a must-win match for the Plainsmen. In three sets, Quinn picked up a comeback victory that helped Shenendehowa scored a 5-4 team win and pave the way for the Plainsmen to pick up the coveted No. 3 seed for the playoffs.
“She was the difference in the match that day,” MacArthur said.
But Quinn does not see herself as the main difference-maker for the Plainsmen this season. She’s just happy to have gotten the chance to return to the courts.
“I didn’t know what to expect at all, I had no idea, but Coach has been so helpful. I’ve grown a lot this year,” Quinn said. “We all support each other here and it helps a lot to know your team’s behind you.”