ROTTERDAM - Loren Cuomo isn't afraid to rip a forehand toward the line or pop a tennis ball over the head of an opponent charging toward the net.
"I usually go for the shot," Mohonasen High School's No. 1 singles player said. "Even if I'm not sure if I can make it."
That willingness to take a risk is part of Cuomo's developing game. She's attacking more, too, something the just-turned-13-year-old did often in a 6-0, 6-0 Suburban Council victory over Colonie's Megan Hunt Tuesday afternoon.
"She's coming in a little more," Mohonasen girls' tennis coach Maria Pacheco said. "It's one of the things I've encouraged her to do. Don't be so predictable."
Mohonasen senior David Maher, who reached the Section II boys' singles final last spring, can see the difference in her game from last year to this one. The two often work out together, and he has become a fixture at the girls' matches.
"She has more variety now," Maher said as Cuomo was completing the second set against Hunt. "Her serve is really good, and if she continues to mix things up, who knows where she will end up."
The new-look Cuomo has played seven matches this fall season and has won all but one. What hasn't changed is the stamina the eighth-grader displays as she chases and returns again and again.
"Track has helped her tennis," Pacheco said. "Every point you think it's done and she battles back. She's a battler."
Cuomo runs indoor and outdoor track for the Mighty Warriors as a distance specialist, and would run cross country in the fall, too, if she could.
"I started running to help my tennis," Cuomo, an honor roll student, said. "Gradually I started to like it. I had to make a huge decision to do cross country or tennis because our school won't allow you to do two sports [in the same season]. It was hard to say no, but I chose tennis."
Cuomo began playing tennis when she was five years old, and by the age of 10 was participating in competitive tournaments, often in older age brackets. Her home base is Sportime Schenectady, where her mom, Morgana, works as a fitness trainer.
"She spends a lot of time there," Morgana Cuomo said. "If she's not playing she's practicing her serve or hitting the ball against a wall."
Cuomo went hit for hit with defending Section II singles champion Haejin Lee of Shaker in Mohonasen's second match of the season in a 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 setback.
"Every point was 20 strokes," Pacheco said of the marathon match. "There were so many hits."
Cuomo and Lee, a sophomore, are friends.
"I play her all the time. We do clinics together," Cuomo said. "She's a really great player. She brings out the best in me."
Lee, Ellie Siebeneck of of Saratoga Springs and Jackie Bornt of Averill Park were the only players who got the best of Cuomo last season. Bornt eliminated Cuomo in the Section II quarterfinals in three sets after the rising Mohonasen star posted four wins earlier in the tournament.
Bornt later fell to Lee in the Section II title match.
"I'm having a great season so far," said Cuomo. "I'm playing pretty solid tennis. One of my wins came against Ellie, and she beat me last year."
Cuomo has also notched wins this season against the top singles players from Shenendehowa, Niskayuna, Guilderland and Troy.
"A good end goal for her would be to do better at the sectionals than last year," Pacheco said. "The main goal is to have fun. She is very young and you don't want her to burn out. You don't want her to lose her love for the game."
Cuomo attended the recent US Open in New York City where, as part of the action, Sloane Stephens defeated Madison Keys in the women's final. Cuomo is a big fan of Keys, and is like her in a lot of ways.
"I like the way she plays," Cuomo said. "She is respectful on the court, she goes for shots and she's athletic."
Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz ar 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.