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Schopp is the best of the Elite Eight in area tennis

Carolyn Schopp is Western New York's top-ranked women's tennis player. Due to a lack of enough players participating in local tournaments we are only ranking eight women this year instead of ten.

This past year there were three local women's events. They were the Buffalo Muny Open which was held at Delaware Park, the Buffalo City Open and Women's August tournament which were both held at the Miller Tennis Center.

To be considered for a ranking a player had to play in at least two of the three tournaments. Unfortunately, this meant that outstanding players such as Rachel Del Priore, Elise DeRose, Ashley Neumann and Kristin Kessler did not achieve a position in the rankings due to their only playing in one local tournament.

The final rankings were based on three adult tournaments. In addition, Erie County interscholastic high school championships, sectional high school championships, and dual high school matches in which many of the top eight players competed against each other were also factored into the final rankings.

The rankings follow:

1. Carolyn Schopp: Schopp is a 32-year-old lawyer who works for Fisher-Price. She won the Muny Open by defeating Michelle Mitchell, 6-4, 6-4, in the final. She lost a close three-setter to Del Priore in the finals of the Buffalo City Open. In addition, she reached the semifinals of the 30 & Over National Women's Grass Court Singles Championships this past summer and was undefeated for Buffalo in Marsh Cup play.

More important, Schopp is the epitome of grace and sportsmanship, both on and off the court. In short, she is a perfect "gentlewoman."

"Playing against the youngsters who were 10-15 years younger than me was a real challenge. I realized that I had to use my experience and shot selection to win as they really hit the ball so powerfully," she said.

2. Michelle Mitchell: Mitchell made a remarkable recovery from a shoulder injury earlier in the year to win the Miller Tennis Center's August tournament. In addition, she was runner-up to Schopp in the Muny tournament and lost to Del Priore in the Buffalo City Open. The 20-year-old senior at the University of Pennsylvania has starred on the school's tennis team for the last three years. Formerly the No. 1-ranked 14-year-old in the United States, her game is highlighted by outstanding ground strokes and very few errors.

3. Olga Khymlev: Last year's Buffalo News' No. 1 player had an outstanding year in local high school tennis. The 16-year-old Williamsville East junior was the mainstay of a team that went 15-0 in dual matches. In addition to going undefeated in league play she also won the ECICs and sectionals and finished second in the state championships. She has an all-court game and hits powerfully with both her forehand and backhand ground strokes.

4. Tina Miller: The 15-year-old Williamsville North sophomore may have been the story of the year in Western New York women's tennis. Due to illness she didn't start playing tennis seriously until late June. Still, she reached the semifinals of the Muny City Open and the Miller Tennis Center's August tournament. In addition, she was runner-up to Khymlev in both the ECICs and sectional championships. She has a "never-say-die attitude" and is a fierce competitor.

5. Miranda Podlas: The 15-year-old Williamsville East sophomore finished 15-0 as the second singles player for the Williamsville East tennis team that has to rank among the finest women's high school tennis teams to have ever competed in Western New York. She and partner Monica Veith won the ECIC and sectional doubles championships. She has classic strokes and is working hard on all aspects of her game.

6. Monica Veith: The 17-year-old senior had a busy year. She won the Gow Girls Invitational and the Western New York Girls tournament in Rochester. She played second singles in the Empire State Games and won the silver medal. In addition to winning the doubles title with Podlas she was also 15-0 in league play for Williamsville East. She is a powerful hitter and an outstanding doubles player.

7. Caroline Bristol: The 16-year-old Orchard Park sophomore has made remarkable strides during the past year. She finished 16-0 in league play. In the ECIC singles championships, she lost to Miller, a player she had defeated twice earlier in the season. She also made the finals of the ECIC and sectional doubles championships with her partner, Catie Wickline. Bristol is extremely steady and waits for her opponents to make mistakes.

8. Maura McKenna Rassow: She is the "oldster" in the group at 38. She took a Professional Tennis Registry course with Todd Miller to become a tennis instructor about a year ago. She was very impressed with the presentation and how much it improved her game. It showed in the Muny Open where she reached the quarterfinals with a much improved game.


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