Pembroke Hill junior Ellison Rooney had a range of emotions after she won the clinching match of the 2014 Missouri state Class 1 team tennis tournament on Thursday at the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield.
But one of those emotions stood out after she won at No. 2 singles over Kiki Peters of John Burroughs in giving the Raiders a 5-3 victory.
“I am more relieved than anything,” Rooney said.
It became evident as the championship match between Pembroke Hill and John Burroughs went on that Rooney’s match against Peters was going to be the pivotal one.
John Burroughs has superior depth which showed in a convincing 8-1 win at No. 3 doubles and a pair of wins at No. 4 and 5 singles. The Bombers were also up a set and ahead 4-2 in a second set tie-breaker at No. 6 singles.
That left no margin for error at the top of the Raider lineup.
Yurie Heard had done her thing with a convincing win at No. 1 singles, and Cindy Wang had almost as easy a time at No. 3 singles.
But it was a different story and a lot longer day for Rooney, who won the first set against Peters 6-2 but then fell by the same score in the second set.
“(Coach) Dale (Eshelbrenner) talked to me after the second set and told me to focus one point at a time and try not to get caught up by what was happening in the other matches,” Rooney said.
That was easier said than done, though, as matches were finishing on adjacent courts.
“I knew it was a very important match and that I needed to win,” Rooney said. “There was a lot of pressure, and it does affect how you play. I was much more cautious than I usually am. I’m glad now that it is over that I was in this situation but it was hard doing it.”
Rooney had also been a part of a huge win at No. 1 doubles as she teamed with Wang in defeating Lindsay Garcia and Peters, 8-6 at No. 1 doubles.
Rooney and Wang broke Garcia, the No. 1 singles player for John Burroughs, in a pivotal game at 5-5 and never gave up the lead.
“It was crucial to be on top after doubles because of the way the teams matched up,” Eshelbrenner said. “Their lower half of the lineup has not lost much all season, and I knew we would be favored at the top three spots. We really needed that win at No. 1 doubles.”
Heard and Anya Loboda had won convincingly 8-2 at No. 2 doubles for Pembroke Hill. (The three doubles matches, which began each match, were played in an eight-game pro set format.)
“This was amazing,” said Eshelbrenner, whose team defeated Villa Duchesne 5-0 in the semifinalsThursday. “I felt coming in that all the teams here were capable of winning and whoever played well here would win. I thought we played great this morning and great at times this afternoon.”
It was Pembroke Hill’s first girls state tennis championship since 2005.
Sion falls in Class 2 semis
Notre Dame de Sion fell just short in making it a sweep for area schools in the team tournament.
The Storm dominated the top of the lineup in their Class 2 semifinals match against Columbia Rock Bridge. But the Bruins were solid at the bottom and came away with a hard-fought 5-4 victory.
After knocking out Notre Dame de Sion, the Bruins, who finished the season with a 26-0 record, defeated St. Joseph’s Academy 5-0 in the championship.
Sion’s Michaela Henne, Margo Gerke and Catherine Henne did not drop a set in winning at the top three singles spots against Rock Bridge, and Michaela Henne and Gerke won at No. 1 doubles.
But that fifth court would be a tough one to get. The match ended when Rock Bridge’s Katherine Dudley won a second-set tie-breaker against freshman Lanie Jones at No. 5 singles.
“The freshman (Jones) kept her composure and really played well,” Storm coach Karen O’Neill said.
“I thought we played the best tennis we played all year, which is what you look to do here. They are so good in doubles, and they swept us in doubles earlier in the season. We got a win there at No. 1 which gave us a chance. Our top three have been nails all year, and our top two girls (Henne and Gerke) are really equal.”
Those top three players will be competing Friday and Saturday in the individual portion of the state tournament.
Henne and Gerke should be a force in doubles.
And Catherine Henne, who is also a freshman, has a tough draw in singles. She plays unbeaten Barbara Boehm of McCluer North in the first round, and if she wins, she will likely have to play Risa Takenaka of Francis Howell North in the quarterfinals. Takenaka won the Class 2 singles championship in 2012.