Lee Girls Defend Western Mass Title, Boys Finish Second
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- The Lee High girls tennis team Tuesday won its 18th match of the season and its second straight Western Massachusetts Division 3 title.
Winning is part of the DNA for these Wildcats.
But at the end of a 4-1 win over South Hadley in the sectional finals, it was the one Lee loss that had coach Norma Comalli talking.
"They're just tenacious," Comalli said of her players' character. "They all play very hard. They don't quit. And it was cool that all the teams stayed around to watch that. They all came and watched and cheered them on."
The Lee boys -- who dropped a 4-1 decision in their sectional final against Belchertown on the Forest Park courts -- and the rest of the Lee girls team had plenty of time to see Rachel Wendling and Caroline Maloney battle their foes from South Hadley.
The No. 1 doubles match, which the Tigers won, 7-6, 6-7, 10-8, had the same start time as the rest of the boys and girls matches but went nearly an hour later than the rest, stretching well past the two-hour mark.
The tenacity of both doubles teams, who battled well past verdict was in on the team match, was an example for all.
"That's what makes a champions, too," Comalli said. "It's not just one player. It's the team that makes a championship.
"Those [South Hadley] girls were seniors, and my two girls were freshmen, so they've not played together before. [The Tigers] were a little more seasoned. So I was proud of them. It was really a cool, good match. It was awesome."
And so were the rest of the Tigers.
Anna Wang and Surianna Lee cruised at second and third singles, respectively, by identical scores of 6-0, 6-1. At No. 1, Ava Martin picked up a 6-2, 6-4 win.
The Wildcats got their fourth point at second doubles, where Paige Barry and Cindy Ni took a second-set tie break to win, 6-1, 7-6 (7-5).
"It's an amazing feeling," Martin said. "We've been hoping to do this all year. This is our goal. And it's especially great since it's my senior year. It's a great way to end my high school career.
"Hopefully, it's not the end."
Next week, the Wildcats go back to Monday's state semi-finals to face the Central Massachusetts champion for a berth in the state title match.
After carrying the Western Mass banner into last year's state tourney, this year's veteran Wildcat squad brought plenty of experience into Tuesday's final.
"I feel we felt a little confident," Comalli said. "I didn't think we felt cocky, we felt confident. We didn't feel like we were underdogs, even though we were the second seed. We felt, you know, like we've been here before. We've seen this team."
Last June, Lee beat South Hadley by an identical 4-1 score in the sectional final.
"We knew what they have," Comalli said. "They've probably improved too, but we've improved."
The Lee boys, who were knocked out in the Western Mass quarter-finals last year, showed a lot of improvement, finishing their season with a record of 9-5 -- two of those losses against the Orioles.
When the teams met in the regular season, Belchertown won, 5-0.
On Tuesday, eighth-grader Matt Petrescu earned a 3-6, 6-4, 10-8 win at No. 2 singles.
No. 1 Maxim Caron and No. 3 Ben Schrenzel lost by scores of 6-3, 6-4 and 6-0, 6-1, respectively.
In doubles, Lee's tandems of Colby Masse/Korey Houle and Ian Roche/Sam Rogalewski each lost in straight sets.
Lee coach John Perry is looking forward to even more improvement from that that group of seven going forward.
"They're going to be together for another two years," Perry said. "The first singles player is a 10th-grader, second singles player is an eighth-grader, third singles is a seventh-grader. Then at first doubles, we had a 10th-grader and a ninth-grader, and there were two ninth-graders for second doubles.
"Hopefully [reaching the Western Mass final] is going to motivate them to play during the summer. Because that's the key, you know, you play your regular season matches, and then ... if they continue to play in the summer, then that helps us for the next year."
The Lee girls will have to wait a little while before they get into summer mode -- hopefully at least another week.
Wang said last year's state tourney loss to Hopedale in the semis gives the Wildcats experience they can use on Monday.
"A little bit," she said. "Last year, we didn't get very far. But hopefully we can get further this year just because we know what to expect now.
"We just have to work as hard as we can. We really need to practice hard, keep our heads in the game and stay focused on what we want."
Photos from these matches here.