Hen­der­son edged out for district team ti­tle

Clark, War­riors fall just short against Har­ri­ton, but state berth still se­cured

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Ed­die Levin For Dig­i­tal First Me­dia

WHITEMARSH >> West Chester Hen­der­son en­tered Tues­day’s PIAA District 1 Class 3A girls’ ten­nis team cham­pi­onship fi­nal at Ply­mouth Whitemarsh High School look­ing for its third con­sec­u­tive district ti­tle, while Har­ri­ton was look­ing to spoil the party and claim its first ti­tle since mov­ing up to Class 3A in 2012.

With the match dead­locked at 2-2, all the at­ten­tion was fo­cused on Hen­der­son se­nior Emma Clark, who clinched a spot in the up­com­ing PIAA state sin­gles tour­na­ment and Har­ri­ton sopho­more Sophia Sas­soli, who will be par­tic­i­pat­ing in the up­com­ing District 1 dou­bles tour­na­ment.

With Sas­soli hold­ing a one set ad­van­tage, Clark did not stop at­tack­ing the younger player, us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of power and fi­nesse to take a 3-1 ad­van­tage in the sec­ond set. With the crowd cheer­ing ev­ery point and both play­ers feel­ing the sup­port from team­mates and fam­ily, Sas­soli fought back and even­tu­ally broke Clark to take a 5-4 lead

“I was very proud of Emma [Clark] and her per­for­mance against Sophia to­day. Sophia is a good player, a na­tional cal­iber player, and for Emma to com­pete like she did was great. As a coach I could not be any prouder of her.”

– Hen­der­son coach Peter Sok

with a chance to serve for the match.

Thanks to some timely big serves and key shot place­ment, Sas­soli held serve to win the sec­ond set and the match, 6-4, thus break­ing the War­riors’ stran­gle­hold at the top of District 1 and giv­ing Har­ri­ton its first district ti­tle at the Class 3A level.

“I knew the match was tight and I knew the pres­sure was on but I tried not to think about be­cause if I started think­ing about it I knew the match wouldn’t end well,” said Sas­soli. “I just kept telling my­self ‘Legs and Swing’ and to keep it sim­ple. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing when I won the match. It was a great sense of re­lief to win.”

Har­ri­ton coach David Broida said, “Sophia Sas­soli didn’t dis­ap­point when the pres­sure was on and the team needed her to win the fi­nal match and break a 2-2 tie. Af­ter win­ning the first set 6-2, and down 3-4 in the sec­ond, Sophia fought back to win the last three games, fin­ish­ing off her op­po­nent on her sec­ond match point. Sophia showed de­ter­mi­na­tion, per­se­ver­ance, and raw phys­i­cal strength in pow­er­ing each hit back to her op­po­nent un­til the ball was not re­turned.”

“I was very proud of Emma [Clark] and her per­for­mance against Sophia to­day,” said Hen­der­son coach Peter Sok. “Sophia is a good player, a na­tional cal­iber player, and for Emma to com­pete like she did was great. As a coach I could not be any prouder of her.”

Fol­low­ing the match, both play­ers were greeted by well-de­served ap­plause be­fore Har­ri­ton stormed the court to con­grat­u­late their team­mate while Hen­der­son let Clark know about her tremen­dous ef­fort.

“It was an amaz­ing feel­ing when I saw the play­ers storm the court,” said Sas­soli. “It was great for the team and for the school.”

Broida added, “Win­ning the PIAA District One Team Cham­pi­onship is a vic­tory that will be cel­e­brated by the team, their par­ents, and the en­tire Har­ri­ton High School com­mu­nity. Be­fore the match, the girls had talked about get­ting this win on the ban­ner that dec­o­rates the ten­nis courts at their school.”

Play­ing a three-sin­gles, two-dou­bles for­mat, it ap­peared as though the War­riors would one again rise past its op­po­nent, tak­ing an early 2-0 lead, thanks to a 6-2, 6-0 win by se­niors Elaina Rochford and Mary So­ria at first dou­bles over Lau­ren Bin­nion and Roshni Parkh (who filled in for Sofia Kan­doussi), fol­lowed by a 6-0, 6-1 win at sec­ond dou­bles by se­nior Iswarya Vel and sopho­more Jes­sica Liu over So­nia Groen­eveld and Shaina Gins­berg.

Har­ri­ton tied the match a short time later as Nina Hoog de­feated Hannah Bax­ter 6-3, 6-1 at third sin­gles be­fore Con­nie Richards de­feated Amanda Bax­ter 6-4, 6-0 to even the match and set up the dra­matic con­clu­sion.

Both teams will ad­vance to the state tour­na­ment start­ing Oct. 25, with Har­ri­ton play­ing the third place fin­isher from District Three while Hen­der­son will open up play against the District 12 cham­pion.

“It’s al­ways a plea­sure to make the state tour­na­ment and it’s not easy to qual­ify for the state tour­na­ment out of District One,” Sok said. “To have this op­por­tu­nity is a credit to their hard work and ef­fort as a team and as their coach I could not be any prouder.”

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Hen­der­son’s Emma Clark hits a shot dur­ing her match against Sophia Sas­soli of Har­ri­ton Tues­day at Ply­mouth Whitemarsh.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Hen­der­son’s Hannah Bax­ter watches a shot in the District 1 team fi­nal against Har­ri­ton Tues­day at Ply­mouth Whitemarsh.

PETE BAN­NAN — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

West Chester Hen­der­son coach Peter Sok gives Emma Clark and Amanda Bax­ter high fives dur­ing Tues­day’s District 1 team fi­nal at Ply­mouth Whitemarsh.

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