Wilks, Unionville edge Downingtown East

In­di­ans se­cure spot in PIAA tour­ney, will face Hen­der­son in semis

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Bruce Adams badams@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Mline­s­ports on Twit­ter

With the post­sea­son fate of the Unionville girls’ ten­nis team rest­ing squarely on her shoul­ders in the PIAA District 1 team quar­ter­fi­nals Thurs­day af­ter­noon, se­nior So­phie Wilks came through like a cham­pion.

Host Unionville was tied with Downingtown East, 2-2, and the only match still on the court was first sin­gles, where Wilks was bat­tling the Cougars’ Noelle Egh­bali in the third set. The win­ning team would au­to­mat­i­cally qual­ify for the PIAA team tour­na­ment.

To the de­light of the spir­ited home crowd, Wilks de­feated Egh­bali, 6-4, in the third set to give Unionville a 3-2 win, which punched the In­di­ans’ ticket to the state tour­ney. Unionville will face top seed West Ch­ester Hen­der­son in Mon­day’s District 1 semi­fi­nals.

“So­phie’s been an awe­some cap­tain and leader of this team, and a driven player,” said Unionville head coach Janet John­ston. “She plays ag­gres­sively, which some­times backs up on her, but to­day she played steady and picked her spots to be ag­gres­sive, and beat Noelle, who is a phe­nom­e­nal player.”

It wasn’t easy for Wilks, who had to bat­tle back from a 4-3 deficit in the first set to win, 6-4. She dropped the sec­ond set, 6-0.

“In the first set, I was steady and kept my cool — win­ning that first set re­ally gave me con­fi­dence and mo­men­tum,” Wilks said. “In the sec­ond set, I tried to end the match quickly and it didn’t work out.

“In the third set, I was stead­ier, pa­tient. Noelle is a strong player who runs you around. I felt tired dur­ing that third set, but I kept it to my­self.”

Unionville swept the sin­gles matches Thurs­day as Wilks’ younger sis­ter, sopho­more El­iza Wilks, won 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) at third sin­gles; and Ricki Lane won 6-2, 6-3 at sec­ond sin­gles. Both play­ers said the key to their vic­to­ries was stay­ing fo­cused.

“I think keep­ing your fo­cus is harder when you’re lead­ing,” Lane said. “Be­cause you have to stay fo­cused or you’ll lose your lead [and the mo­men­tum].”

Ear­lier this sea­son, Unionville (the No. 4 seed in the District 1 tour­ney) de­feated Downingtown East, who was seeded fifth. Both teams won the open­ing round of dis­tricts tour­ney, Unionville blank­ing 13th seed Mount St. Joseph, 5-0, and Downingtown East beat­ing No. 12 Wis­sahickon, 4-1.

“East played a phe­nom­e­nal match to­day — this match could have gone ei­ther way,” John­ston said. “Both teams were de­ter­mined, and it’s a shame that both teams couldn’t win to­day. The way I see it, both teams are win­ners.”

Downingtown East swept the dou­bles matches. At first dou­bles, Olivia Davis and Is­abel DeCecco won, 6-0, 7-6 (8-6), and at sec­ond dou­bles, Swati Vip­perla and Avery Barnes won 6-3, 6-2.

“The whole sea­son, our dou­bles teams were the strong­est part of the team,” said Downingtown East coach Steve Mo­tyka. “But both our dou­bles and sin­gles play­ers came out fight­ing ev­ery match this sea­son — they played ev­ery match as if they were on match point. Hard work beats tal­ent, and the men­tal game has to be there. We had a record of 14-2 this sea­son, and I’m very proud of our play­ers.”

Unionville 3, Downingtown East 2

Sin­gles - 1. So­phie Wilks (U) def. Noelle Egh­bali (DE), 6-4, 0-6, 6-4. 2. Ricki Lane (U) def. Sammy Roberts (DE), 6-2, 6-2. 3. El­iza Wilks (U) def. Mad­die Minio, 6-2, 7-6 (7-5). Dou­bles - 1. Olivia Davis-Is­abel DeCecco (DE) def. Anna Nolan-Bai­ley San­tiq­uida (U), 6-0, 7-6 (8-6). 2. Swati Vip­perla-Avery Barnes (DE) def. Cara

PETE BANNAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Unionville’s So­phie Wilks re­turns a serve from Downingtown East’s Noelle Egh­bali dur­ing their sin­gles match Thurs­day. Wilks won the de­cid­ing match for Unionville to clinch a 3-2 win and a spot in the state team tour­na­ment.

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