WORCESTER >> Owen J. Roberts senior Meredith Lee successfully defended her Pioneer Athletic Conference Singles Championships title Saturday afternoon, but that feat did not come without some strong opposition from other top players and contenders in the circuit.
Lee wound up winning the crown with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Spring-Ford sophomore Tori Alexander in the finals at the Kinetix Sports Club. Lee began the tournament as the number one seed while Alexander came in as the number three seed.
“It does feel good, definitely, last year and this year,” said Lee, the leader of OJR’s 2016 contingent. “There were a bunch of good players before I even got to the finals. I had to keep my head in it. The pressure was on me because I won it last year. I had to live up to expectations. They are going for your spot so I had to keep my head strong.”
Lee’s primary strategy was to keep the ball away from Alexander’s powerful forehand.
Lee advanced to the finals with a 6-4, 6-0 verdict against Methacton sophomore Dina Nouaime in the semifinals. Alexander had to go three sets in her semifinal win, beating Phoenixville sophomore Julia Gumieniak, the second seed, by scores of 6-2, 4-6, 6-0.
Alexander also had a tough three-setter in the quarterfinals, besting Owen J. Roberts sophomore Elaina Lee 2-6, 7-6, 7-5.
“I didn’t play consistent enough,” said Alexander.
All of the top PAC finishers are anxious to take part in the District One Tournament next weekend at Legacy in Philadelphia.
In the first set, Lee served first, and she and Alexander both held to leave the score tied at 1 after two games. Lee then won the next three games to move in front 4-1. Alexander halted that run with a win in game six to make it 4-2, but Lee took the ensuing two games to win the first set 6-2.
At the outset of the second set, Lee won a key point on a lob shot with good placement in a good volley and followed up a double fault with an ace that allowed Lee to hold serve and win the first game. Alexander hit her own key shots in game two to leave the score tied at 1, converting a forehand shot to seal the game.
In game three, Lee had a couple of long shots that were just beyond the line, and the points went to Alexander. The senior still managed to hold serve for a 2-1 lead. Alexander came through with a strong overhead slam in game four, but Lee was still able to break serve for a 3-1 lead. Lee’s shot to side court sealed game five for a 4-1 lead.
With Alexander serving, Lee scored after a fine, long exchange by both players to make it 5-1, and Lee completed the job by holding serve in a 30-minute set to complete the match.
“I had to keep the ball in to have a chance to win the point,” said Lee. “I had to get every ball up.”
Lee is also looking forward to returning to districts to compete against many of the same players she has played against before, both in the PAC and in surrounding leagues.
“You have to stay on your grind to make sure you are ready,” said Lee.
Lee said how she fares at these high-profile tournaments will help her in the search for the proper college to meet her needs for tennis and academics. She said she is appreciative of her parents putting in all the necessary time in that regard, too.
“There is a lot of pressure on them, too,” said Lee.
NOTES >> Nouaime finished in third place with an 8-3 victory over Gumieniak. … In the fifth-place playoff, OJR’s Elaina Lee topped Methacton sophomore Tina Prince 8-2 in one semi, and Spring-Ford sophomore Kathryn Alvarez beat Methacton senior Sydnie Markowitz 8-4 in the other semi. Elaina Lee then defeated Alvarez 8-2 in the final round. … The Lees are coached by Jerry Styer, a 24-year veteran at the helm of the Wildcats.