There was plenty on the line when West Holmes traveled to Wooster to face the Lady Generals on the tennis courts Tuesday, Sept. 15 at Wooster High School.
Bragging rights, seeding in the Ohio Cardinal Conference and of course, a victory over a rival were all at stake, plus momentum heading into the latter stages of OCC play were all on display in what turned out to be a hugely entertaining night of tennis.
West Holmes eventually pulled away to a 4-1 victory, but it certainly was far from a blowout win for the Lady Knights.
“We knew West Holmes was going to be tough coming in, and we wanted to compete at a high level all the way through, “said Burris. “I think we did a nice job of that,” said long-time Generals coach Stan Burris. “We have been getting a little better every night out. Hat’s off to Jason, it’s another good team from him. We are trying to get a little better, and sometimes that doesn’t mean a ‘W,’ but it still means you can get better.”
Erin Stitzlein began a series of four straight victories for West Holmes, carving out a fairly efficient 6-2, 6-0 win at second doubles over Wooster’s Olivia McCory. That win was soon followed by an odd doubles victory by the first singles dup of Cassidy Mohler and Kate Rodhe, who dispensed of Wooster’s Hannah Morgan and Emma Strong 6-1, 2-6, 6-1. It was all West Holmes in the first and third sets, and Wooster dominated the middle set, but as Mohler said, “It really wasn’t that lopsided, because we were going to deuce just about every game.”
Mere moments after the first doubles finale, Lady Knight Natalie Molnar was putting the finishing touches on a 6-3, 6-3 win over a tough opponent in Izzy Rico at first singles. The two battled for every point, and both showed real athleticism in tracking down a myriad of shots, thus keeping points alive for long rallies.
The lone Wooster win came at third singles, where Julia Tefs fought off previously undefeated Sabryn Cutlip of West Holmes, winning 6-3, 6-4.
That match had huge repercussions for both players, who probably flip-flopped their seeds in the OCC tournament.
“This is huge for the OCC,” said West Holmes coach Jason Otto. “You look at Sabryn, and she probably went from two to four seed. That could put her right in the path of Lexington. Everybody fights for second in the OCC because of Lexington, and that is Wooster, Ashland and us, and on any given day you never know who is going to be two, three or four.”
However, the most entertaining game of the night fell to the second doubles crews of Wooster’s Esther Hart and Mary Grace Gorman, who fell to the West Holmes duo of Maty Macaulay and Samara Gallion 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-3).
“That was incredibly nerve-racking,” said Macaulay right after the match was over. “I am still shaking. I can’t believe we pulled that out. I am really excited right now.”
Gallion said since they had just dealt with a tiebreaker to Ashland and fell by the slightest of two point margins, it helped them prepare for this big night.
“This was an important win for us over a team that is a rival for us, but you just kind of put that in the back of your mind and focus on the task at hand, and try to go point by point,” said Gallion.
For West Holmes, the match keeps them in the hunt for a second-place finish should they somehow manage to score some points off of Lexington, a dominant program in the OCC that everyone is trying to avoid in the first and second rounds of league tournament play.
For Wooster, the match was a bit of a confidence boost despite getting knocked down 4-1.
“We were hoping we could get close and squeeze out wins in a couple of those matches,” said Burris. “They were just a little too good tonight.”
With the duel match now behind them, both OCC rivals turn their attention to a time when they will square off again in the OCC tournament, when Lexington, Ashland and a whole bunch of quality players come careening together to create what should be a very interesting chase.