Shifting lineups, changing roles: Girls tennis scrambles for two victories with make-shift lineup

Angela Balaoing drives a serve over the net during a No. 1 singles match last week.

Angela Balaoing drives a serve over the net during a No. 1 singles match last week.

By BRIAN JENNINGS
STAFF WRITER

Being without key starters for their first two matches of the season didn’t stop the Lady Knights (2-0) tennis team from winning, especially without their leading singles player. Everyone shifted up in the lineup. Players were forced into uncomfortable roles, but the Southington squad took it in stride.

The Knights started their season off with a strong gust and a 7-0 win against the Platt Panthers (1-2) on their home court on Monday, April 13.

“Given the conditions, it was a beautiful day all day and then you come to the high school tennis courts and the wind starts blowing,” said Southington coach Robin Thompson. “It’s hard to stay in a match where the wind can be a major factor. We had some girls playing singles that used to play doubles, so they stepped up and did a really nice job.”

Southington’s Angela Balaoing stepped in at the No.1 spot and only dropped two games against Platt’s top single Christine Pandiani, 6-1, 6-1. Natalie Gimenez, and Liz Costello backed Balaoing with wins in their singles matches. Abby Roy was promoted to her first varsity singles match and won, 6-4, 6-1.

Doubles was just as dominant. The No.1-ranked duo of Cassidy Race and Rianna Susco earned a shutout against Platt’s Ava Hisner and Rachel Greenberg, 6-0, 6-0. Sam Lohneiss-Kayla Kavanagh and Julie Falk-Olivia Ende were victorious in their doubles matches as well.

The Knights followed up a strong opening act with back-to-back wins on their home court on Wednesday. The second win came against the Mercy Tigers, 5-2.

“It was a really good win for us today,” said Thompson. “With a number of three-set matches, this could have gone either way. Our girls just really gritted and gutted this one out. I’m so proud of them. They did an awesome job today.”

Balaoing continued in the top spot and defeated Mercy’s Kate Hall, 6-2, 7-5. Catie Wormer dropped her first set, 4-6, at No.2 singles, but held off Mercy’s Juliette Piazza, 6-1, 6-3, to capture the series.

Roy may not have won her match, but Thompson said she was still proud of her performance.

“She’s relatively new to being in the starting lineup, and we’ve thrown her into singles,” the Lady Knights coach said. “She played a tough opponent, but she gritted it out and drove the girl to three sets. I’m really proud of her and think she did a great job.”

Race and Susco pulled through in the second set of their doubles match, winning the tiebreaker against Mercy’s Summer Klotzback and Megan Tomassetti, 6-2, 7-5. The Knights closed out the contest with wins from Lohneiss-Kavanagh and Costello-Falk.

The Knights will try to keep the momentum going into this week’s match on the road against the Rockville Rams (0-1).

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