The two best high school level girls’ tennis teams in Eastern Massachusetts faced off at Newton North High School yesterday afternoon, but it was clear from the outcome that there was a distinct difference between number one and number two.
Division 1 North Sectional champion Westford Academy had little trouble in the MIAA State Semi-Finals, easily defeating the Division 1 South Sectional winning Rockets of Needham High, 5-0.
Both doubles matches ended quickly, with Brittany Leonard and Sydney Diamond defeating Lara Sisselman and Julia Kennedy in the first doubles match (6-3, 6-1) Alesia Raczelowski and Kristina Kea taking down Karissa Chao and Jodi Gresberg without much effort in the second doubles match (6-1, 6-4.)
“(The First Doubles) were a solid team, they have the power from the baseline, they have the chip and charge, and they really complement each other very well,” said Westford Academy head coach Tracy Capone. “Same thing with second doubles, one’s a real power player and the other is short angles and a finesse player, and they really complement each other as well.”
The pair of straight set doubles victories was then followed with the clinching win in the top singles match by Westford sophomore Catilyn Paltsios, taking down Needham junior Ali Sullivan in another straight set victory, 6-1, 6-1.
By this point both sophomore Briana Leonard and senior Hannah Wang each had a set on their opponents, Ali’s freshman sister Kelly and junior Hannah Corderman respectively, but both Rockets were determined to make life difficult for the remaining Grey Ghosts, with each Needham player sending the second set of their match into a tiebreaker.
However, neither Rocket could come out on top, with Leonard winning the second singles match 6-0, 7-6, with a 7-3 tiebreaker victory, and Wang winning the third singles match 6-2, 7-5, with a 7-3 tiebreaker victory as well.
Despite not being able to win a set against the defending state champions, Needham head coach Diane Fidurko was not surprised with the level of quality she saw from her girls’ opponents on this day given her past experience at this level and her opinion on the state of Massachusetts high school tennis.
“The North (Sectional) is usually tougher than the South (Sectional),” said Fidurko, who led the Rockets to a State Championship in 2000. “The Dual County League is definitely a tough league, they had three teams in there (Westford, Acton-Boxborough, and Lincoln-Sudbury) that were all very good.”
All in all, Fidurko’s assessment of Westford’s regular season competition was right on the money in Capone’s eyes.
“Coming into the tournament, we were prepared, we’re always prepared because we play these high intensity matches day in and day out in the DCL,” said Capone. “For the girls, it’s another match, and we have our DCL opponents to thank for that for preparing us.”
The Grey Ghosts will now head to Clark University in Worcester on Wednesday for a 3:15 p.m showdown against West Sectional champion Amherst.
But despite their overwhelming victory against Needham, Westford is not taking the championship lightly.
“Through the tournament the teams have been getting tougher and tougher,” said the Grey Ghosts coach. “Amherst’s a good team, so that will be a tough matchup.”