Wilks, Unionville edge Downingtown East
Indians secure spot in PIAA tourney, will face Henderson in semis
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
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.