October 9, 2013
Historic victory for Purple Tigers
Head to semifinals with win at Homer
In a match that was closer than the final score made it look, the Cortland High girls’ tennis team made some history Tuesday afternoon.
The 13th-seeded Purple Tigers beat host No. 12 Homer 5-2 in the Section 3 Class B team tournament quarterfinals to earn a berth in the sectional semis for the first time in the history of the program, according to coach Bob Walrath who is now in his 26th year at the helm at CHS.
“This wasn’t even on the radar when the season started,” Walrath said, his team now 8-8 overall. “We just wanted to be competitive and not get blown away. We had a couple of matches that got away from us, but it was because players weren’t available due to injuries or illness. The last two matches were the first time this season that we’ve had almost a full lineup.
“This team truly wanted to get better, and it worked hard. The girls are very coachable, and they made it happen.”
It looked early on like Cortland, which beat Homer twice during the regular OHSL season — 4-3 at home on Sept. 5 and 4-3 on the road Sept. 23 — would make short postseason work of the Trojans. All of the matches that were played on the four available courts to start things off went the Purple Tigers’ way early, and in fact three of them ended up that way.
CHS’s first doubles duo of Delaney Marshall and Jennifer Wang were 6-0, 6-2 winners over Christine Han and Sara McNamara to deliver the first point of the match while improving to 2-1 on the season. Next off the court was second doubles, where Lyuda Levitskaya and Jackie Phillips stayed perfect in three matches together and made it 2-0 for Cortland with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Shannon Spencer and Sarah Willsey.
Iva Markicevic gave the visitors a 3-0 lead when she beat Carly Dove 6-1, 6-4 at second singles, upping her personal record to 7-5. The match of the night was next to finish. Homer first singles player Rachel McNeil lost the first set to Annie Steve 6-2 and was down 5-2 in the second before storming back for a 7-6 (7-5) win to tie it at a set apiece. McNeil then fell behind 3-0 in the third set before coming back again for a 6-4 win to cut the CHS lead and up her own record to 10-4.
THE HOSTS PULLED to within 3-2 when their third doubles tandem of Lydia Brown and Maddie Jennings won for the eighth time in 12 matches, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) over Morgan Plunkett and Kasey Francis. The Purple Tigers then clinched the team win, and some history, as Chickie Artis and Katie Musci, the latter a junior varsity callup in her first-ever varsity match, won fourth doubles 6-2, 6-4 over Hilary Luety and Victoria Shevchuk as daylight faded and the temperature dropped.
Cortland’s Anna Millar accounted for the final margin shortly after that, moving to 7-1 at third singles with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) win over Katie Mercer.
“We started out slow, and I felt that throughout the whole match we had a slew of unforced errors,” Trojans coach Nancy Cavellier said, her team finishing the season at 7-8 overall, having downed No. 5 New Hartford 4-3 Saturday in the first round.
“It was a hard-fought match, and I wouldn’t expect anything less, especially in sectionals. Cortland is a strong team and seemed to have our number this season, but that was an incentive for the girls,” added Cavellier. “They picked up on the idea of the third time being the charm, which shows great maturity for players that age.”
McNeil’s battle with Steve was the Cavellier eye-opener.
“Rachel and Annie, what a match. It was so impressive, and it was the turnaround for us,” the Homer coach noated. “Our third doubles team worked together well, and as a team we battled to the last point. We had so many tight matches this season, and I told the girls afterwards that sometimes it isn’t the win or the loss but just the match itself that builds character for the future.”
AFTER NOT BEING able to practice Monday due to the rain that washed out the original date for the match, Walrath hit some balls to half his team as the other half served Tuesday afternoon and then reversed the assignments prior to departing for Homer. As for starting Musci under the circumstances, he said that “She was the best player on our JV team this season and I thought we needed someone that was more consistent. I waited until the JV season ended — I was tempted to do it before that — and it worked out.”
Musci didn’t play in CHS’s 3-2 first-round win at fourth-seeded Indian River Friday, as the hosts played under the three-singles, two-doubles format all season. Tuesday, then, was her first-ever varsity match.
“I had never played any sport on the varsity level, and when coach Walrath asked me I said ‘OK,’” Musci said with a laugh. “I wasn’t sure I was going to play before our first match,. and I didn’t. I was able to play today, and my first varsity match — win! That sounds great.
“Chickie is better at the net and I could return shots that went deeper.”
“We’re a good combination,” Artis said. “We didn’t have that much pressure on us because we didn’t know we were the winning point. It’s exciting to be on the first team from Cortland to make it this far, and I hope we keep on going.”
As noted, the Purple Tigers were to visit top-seeded Oneida today in a 3:30 p.m. start. The Indians improved to 18-0 on the season Tuesday with a 7-0 quarterfinal win over No. 8 Camden.
Today’s other semifinal was to pit No. 6 Marcellus (11-3) against host and second seed Jamesville-DeWitt (17-0). The semifinal winners will meet for the championship Friday at Utica Parkway Courts, the time to be determined.
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