December 18, 2014

Elyria
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H.S. Tennis: Rocky River prevents Avon 4-peat at West Shore Conference Tournament with win in final match

Avon's Maddy Rini returns the ball to Midview's Rachiel Pickering in the first singles consolation match for third- and fourth-place. Rini won the match. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

Avon’s Maddy Rini returns the ball to Midview’s Rachiel Pickering in the first singles consolation match for third- and fourth-place. Rini won the match. LINDA MURPHY/CHRONICLE

ROCKY RIVER — With two individual champions, a runner-up and two third-place finishers, Avon put itself in prime position to claim at least a share of the West Shore Conference tennis tournament crown for the fourth straight year.

Rocky River had other plans, and it came down to the last match of the tournament Saturday at Magnificat High School.

The Avon team and fans were cheering for Bay’s Haley Hansen and Rachel Poretsky in their second doubles championship match against Rocky River seniors Adrienne Copa and Sydney Bowen, because a win by Bay would ensure a three-way tie atop the team standings.

Hansen and Poretsky won the first set 7-5. But Copa and Bowen stormed back to win the final two sets, 6-2, 6-2, giving the Pirates one more point than the Eagles, 36-35, and their first WSC title since 2009.

Bay, which had four runners-up and a third-place finisher, had to settle for third place with 34 points. All three teams went 7-1 during the WSC regular season — Rocky River beat Avon, Avon beat Bay and Bay beat Rocky River.

Even though her team’s quest for a four-peat was denied, Avon coach Caroline Hughes was happy with how it performed.

“At the end of the day, it doesn’t always work out the way you want it to,” Hughes said. “But the girls played well today. Unfortunately, Rocky River played better. That’s just the way it is. I can’t complain. Like I told the girls, even Roger Federer lost in the second round at Wimbledon. You just never know what’s going to happen. That’s tennis.”

Avon was led by senior Halle Mentler and sophomore Madison Nakon, who won the second and third singles championships.

Mentler became a four-time WSC champion — to go along with her four consecutive LCAAA Tournament titles — by not dropping a single game in three matches Saturday. She finished off her quest with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Bay’s Paige Aleksandrovic in the finals.

“I was hoping to be that dominant this year,” said Mentler, who won doubles championships as a freshman and sophomore and the third singles championship last season. “At third singles last year, I didn’t lose a game until the championship, and it was the only game I lost. When you come that close, you want to try to go for it again, so to do it was exciting.

“I think winning at third singles last year helped a lot. When you start playing high school tennis, you get really good experience. Doubles and singles are so different, so last year was really nice. It gave me a nice singles experience, so I was prepared to do even better my senior year.”

Nakon, who won the first doubles championship last season, added a singles WSC crown to her mantel with a 6-1, 6-1 win over Bay’s Maddie Messina. Those were the only games she dropped in a 3-0 performance.

“It was a little harder to win this at singles, but it’s nice because you’re doing it alone and you don’t have to rely on your partner,” Nakon said. “Our team’s fairly strong all the way around, and I felt personally that I could do well in the conference.

“I won all my matches in conference this year. That helped my confidence, but there’s also the added pressure of knowing you beat them before and they want to beat you the second time around.”

Seniors Annie DeLuca and Riley Monroe, who won doubles titles here last year with different partners, reached the first doubles finals with a 6-2, 7-6 (9-7) win over Lakewood. However, they were beaten by last year’s WSC runners-up and Division II state qualifiers Lucy Grierson and Alex Riegelsberger 6-3, 6-2 in the finals.

“Every match mattered, and it turned out that every point mattered,” Rocky River coach Ben Purdy said. “We had seven very good opponents in this tournament, but the three that continued to rise up were Avon, Bay and us. We are humbled to be in the same category as them — the fact that we get to compete every year for the title.

“We have been humbled by both Bay and Avon here the last couple of years, so it feels real good to come in here, being underdogs all season long, and not only defeat Avon in a tough regular-season dual, but outlast both of those teams in this tournament. We knew the conference wouldn’t be given to us, we had to take it. The girls went out and took it.”

Midview led the rest of the area contingent with a fifth-place finish, scoring 20 points. The Middies were two points behind fourth-place Lakewood (22). Rachel Pickering and Taylor Bartone (third singles) led the way with a pair of fourth-place finishes.

Elyria Catholic (sixth, 15), Vermilion (seventh, 10) and North Ridgeville (eighth, eight) rounded out the bottom of the field.

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.