By BRIAN JENNINGS
The Lady Knights (9-0) girls tennis team remained perfect after winning four matches out of the week, qualifying for the Class LL state tournament in the process.
The Knights hosted the Windsor Warriors (1-6) on Monday, April, 27 and won the match handily, 7-0.
“The conditions weren’t ideal and the wind was a factor today, but the girls competed really well,” said Southington coach Robin Thompson.
Alex Barmore, Catie Wormer, and Natalia Gimenez scored singles wins for the Knights, but it was Catie Wormer that secured the sweep when she battled back from a 4-love deficit in the second set to win and clinch the match.
“I spent a little bit of time talking with her during the switchover about relaxing and taking her time,” said Thompson. “She seemed to be in a big rush, but she made that adjustment. Next thing you know she came back to win the next six games and took the second set. So, I’m really proud of what she did today and the way that she hung in there.”
Cassidy Race and Rianna Susco set the pace with a win at No. 1 doubles. Sam Lohneiss-Kayla Kavanagh and Liz Costello-Olivia Ende completed the sweep.
The next day, the Knights took their tenacity to the courts of Manchester and followed up with another dominant performance, beating the Indians (1-4), 7-0.
“Manchester’s a team that I think gets a little bit better every year,” said Thompson. “They have a new freshman in their lineup that bodes well for their future. They pushed us in a couple of matches and made it interesting, but our girls have just a little more experience and I think that’s what played out.”
Barmore, Balaoing, and Wormer won in straight sets. Gimenez survived a tie breaker in the second set to win, 6-1, 6-7 (2).
Southington dominated doubles, too. Race-Susco, Lohneiss-Kavanagh, and Costello-Falk won in straight sets.
“One of the biggest adversaries was the wind,” said Thompson. “We were on top of a hill, and it was incredibly windy up there…There were difficult conditions that made things a little tighter than we might have expected, but the girls have learned so far this year how to deal with the weather. The match tends to take a little bit longer because they don’t have seven courts. As far as the layout goes, it’s hard to coach. They have great courts, but they have two courts that are down about a good quarter of a mile away.”
Weather was perfect for Wednesday’s home contest against the Fermi Falcons (0-4), and the Knights responded with a 7-0 win to clinch a post-season berth with their sixth shutout of the season.
“The girls just went out there and attacked right from the beginning, and that’s something we talk about,” said Thompson. “We tried to some new things and had an opportunity to work on some aspects of the game that we don’t always see. Fermi has a nice group of girls and some are new to the game so you give them credit for putting themselves out there doing their best to compete.”
Barmore, Balaoing, Wormer, and Gimenez swept singles. Race-Susco, Lohneiss-Kavanagh, and Abby Roy- Ende won in straight sets.
In the final game of the week, Southington managed to out-last the Conard Chieftains, 5-2, in the conference opener. The Knights beat the Chieftains, 4-3, last season, but scored one more victory in 2015.
“This is what we’ve been talking about for five weeks or so now, hitting the CCC West schedule and how it becomes a different atmosphere and level of play,” said Thompson. “We’re on the road at Conard and you can tell early on that it was going to be tough. You can see through warm-ups that it was going to be a highly competitive match.”
Barmore defeated Conard’s Ly Dang, 6-0, 6-3, and Balaoing was triumphant over Conard’s Leah Nguyen, 6-2, 6-3. Wormer won the first set, 7-5, against Conard’s Lianne Miller, but lost the next two sets, 6-0, 6-1, falling in split sets. Roy filled in for Gimenez at the No.4 singles spot for the Knights and was victorious over Conard’s Allie Abels, 6-1, 6-2.
Even at doubles, it didn’t come easy. Race and Susco trailed, 5-4, in the first set but were able to battle back for a 7-5 victory. They lost the second set in a tiebreaker, but rallied for a 6-0 win in the third set to clinch the match in a contest that spanned two and a half hours.
“This is a quality one doubles team that they played today so it’s a huge win for them,” the Southington coach said. “I hope that the other girls watching learned from it as well, but it was also a learning opportunity for Cassidy and Rianna because they see what they can do. If they just dig their heels in, grind it out, and put their minds to it, they’re going to be just fine.”
Costello-Falk won in straight sets over Conard’s Emily Chu and Christine Guiffrida at No. 3 doubles.
The Knights hope to keep up the top-notch play against top-notch opponents this week with a match at East Hartford against the Hornets (1-6).