East Marlborough – With the post-season fate of the Unionville girls’ tennis team resting squarely on her shoulders in the PIAA District One 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 state team tourney.
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 the District One team semifinals.
Unionville head coach Janet Johnston said, “Sophie’s been an awesome captain and leader of this team, and a driven player. 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.
Wilks said, “In the first set, I was steady and kept my cool – winning that first set really gave me confidence and momentum. 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.
Lane noted, “I think keeping your focus is harder when you’re leading, 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 One tourney) defeated Downingtown East, who was seeded fifth. Both teams won the opening round of the District tourney, Unionville defeating 13th seed Mount St. Joseph, 5-0, and Downingtown East beating No. 12 seed Wissahickon, 4-1.
Johnston said, “East played a phenomenal match today – this match could have gone either way. 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 match Thursday. 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.
Downingtown East coach Steve Motyka said, “The whole season, our doubles teams were the strongest part of the team, 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.”