By John Goralski
Catie Wormer was trailing 3-love when she began to push back at her South Windsor opponent. Cassidy Race battled tooth and nail to win her first match, 6-4, and her second one, 7-5. Alex Barmore seemed to be battling daylight as her match stretched into the early evening as the Southington girls tennis team was fighting for their postseason lives.
On Monday, June 6, the Lady Knights season came to an end with a 5-2 loss in South Windsor, but heir effort wasn’t lost on Lady Knight coach Robin Thompson. For the second year in a row, the Southington girls have clawed their way into the second round of the Class L brackets. They came inches from securing their second quarterfinal berth in as many years.
Not bad for a team that will only graduate one varsity player…
“I know we lost, but it could have been the reverse, I think. There were a lot of deuce games, a lot of missed opportunities, but it was a good learning experience that everybody returning will carry forward to next year,” said Thompson. “It’s all about the advancement of our program, and it’s baby steps. Next year, with almost everyone returning, I’d like to see us make it through the quarterfinals. Let’s see if we can push to the finals.”
Southington’s loss came on the heels of a 6-1 home victory over Bristol Central in the opening round. Barmore, Race, Wormer, and Angela Balaoing captured wins on the singles courts. Julie Falk and Sam Lohneiss teamed up for a straight set victory in doubles.
Susan Murphy and Rianna Susco rebounded from a 7-5 loss in the second set to clinch their series with a 7-5 win in the third set. For the second time this season, the Knights cruised past the Rams with only one loss.
“It was the same result as the last time we played, but it was still very different. They took a different point from us than they did last time,” said Thompson. “Sometimes a 6-1 score looks like we totally dominated, but we didn’t. The individual scores were tight, and it was a good prep for us. It pushed our doubles a little, and that’s a good prep for the next round.”
That momentum carried into the final match. Wormer rebounded from her 3-0 deficit to win the first set, 7-5, and never trailed in the second set to clinch the match with a 6-3 victory. Race battled to a two-point victory in both of her sets to win at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 7-5.
South Windsor swept doubles play in a series of tight contests. Julie Falk and Sam Lohneiss almost tied the series at one point as they won the first set, 6-4, before losing the final two sets, 6-1, 6-3. With all but one player returning next year, off-season workouts could mean a different result in next spring’s brackets.
“It’s all about continual play because the mental piece is so huge,” she said. “This is a team sport, but a lot of it is individual. What do you do when you’re down 3-love? Catie Wormer was down, 3-love, and she came back to win, 7-5, in her first set. It’s all about what you do in those situations. You have to put the past behind you—win or lose—and keep marching forward.”
The victory marked the fourth season in a row that Southington has advanced past the opening round. Murphy, the lone senior, will graduate as the first Lady Knight in decades to reach the later rounds in every single season.
“I feel sad for Susan. I think she wanted one more day,” said Thompson. “I’m sad for her, but I’m always looking forward. Hopefully, the future’s bright for us.”
Murphy will have one more chance for success as she and Susco take the courts on Saturday for the CT State Open. Barmore will represent the Knights in singles play at Conard High School in West Hartford. Murphy-Susco will compete at Hall High School in the doubles competitions.
On Monday, June 9, the brackets will converge at Yale University for the quarterfinal round.
By John Goralski