By John Goralski
Alex Barmore struggled against the wind and the cold as her Cheshire opponent rallied for a win in the first set. Susan Murphy and Rianna Susco looked out of rhythm as their Ram counterparts dismantled them in the opening set at No. 2 doubles.
On Wednesday, April 16, Lady Knight coach Robin Thompson scurried from one court to the other with a look of nervous apprehension. Her Knights were struggling against the Rams. It looked like a tight contest, but looks can be deceiving.
“Cheshire is a strong team, and this was a really good, competitive match,” said Thompson. “It was the kind of match that could have gone either way. We talked about competing today. We wanted to forget that it’s cold and a little bit windy, and we talked about digging in.”
Barmore got stronger as the match went on, rebounding from the 3-6 loss in the first set to win, 6-4, 6-3, in the sets that followed. In the second set, she seemed to master the wind and cold. In the third set, Southington’s No. 1 singles player controlled from start to finish.
“I just kept going,” said Barmore. “Once she won the first set, I thought it was a clean slate going into the second set. I had to pull through and keep my attitude positive. From there on out, everything fell into place.”
The same was true for Murphy and Susco. The top pair rebounded from a 3-6 loss in the opening set to win back-to-back sets, 6-3, 7-5. When the dust settled on the competition, Southington came away with a lopsided, 6-1 victory, but Thompson said that it was a lot closer than the final score.
“This was a very good first test for us. I was very happy with singles play. We have a little bit of work to do in doubles, but it was a good win,” she said. “We’ll continue to develop, but I’m very happy for the girls right now.”
Cassidy Race (6-2, 6-2) and Catie Wormer (6-0, 6-1) were the only ones that were never threatened as they cruised to victories at No. 3 and No. 4 singles. Angela Balaoing survived a late run in the second set to win, 6-2, 7-5. In their first varsity tandem match, Julie Falk and Caroline Barry scrambled for tiebreaker victories in both sets to win at No. 3 singles, 7-6 (5) and 7-6 (1).
“This is what we were looking for,” said Thompson. “This is how we wanted to get out of the gate for our first match of the season.”
The momentum carried over to Southington’s second contest the following day. After two postponements, Southington swept past Mercy, 7-0. Angela Balaoing came away with a 6-0, 4-0 default win since Mercy’s No. 2 singles player was away on vacation, but both teams substituted doubles tandems in order to get the game in.
“We made a substitute at No. 3 doubles due to illness, as did Mercy in both their No. 2 and No. 3 doubles,” said Thompson. “Technically, substitutions aren’t allowed but we mutually agreed.”
Once again, Barmore battled back from a loss in her first set to win a split-set decision at No. 1 singles. Race cruised to another straight set victory at No. 3, and Wormer battled through a 7-5 win in the first set and a 6-4 victory in the second set.
“This was a good win for Catie since she had trouble initially trying to handle her opponent,” said Thompson. “This was a good learning experience for her, and she came back from down 3-5 in her first set to tie it at 5-5.”
Murphy and Susco battled through a hard fought match at No. 1 doubles to come away with a 6-4, 7-5 victory. Liz Costello and Natalia Gimenez controlled the pace to score a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 2 doubles. In the final contest, Olivia Ende and Kayla Kavanagh stepped in because of illnesses to score a split-set victory with a tiebreaker win in the third set.
“They won a tight match that could have gone either way,” said Thompson. “We are still trying to figure out who our best No. 3 doubles team is.”
With the victories, Southington kicked off the season with a 2-0 record. The girls will try to extend that streak with non-conference contests against Bristol Central (0-1) and Rockville (2-1) this week.
To comment on this story or to contact sports writer John Goralski, email him at jgoralski@ southingtonobserver.com.