Whitemarsh >> For the second consecutive year, Harriton junior Sophia Sassoli found herself in position to clinch the PIAA District One Class AAA championship on the same court she played on one year ago at Plymouth Whitemarsh High School.
Similar to last season, the two players playing on the courts next to her Wednesday afternoon had finished their matches expediently to give the Rams a 2-0 lead. Holding a 3-2 lead in her match, Sassoli wanted to take care of business so she could cheer on her teammates.
Also similar to last season, her opponent was not about to let down easily. This year’s opponent, Conestoga’s Cassidy Landau, knew the situation and was not about to let her team down.
Tracking down just about every potential winner Sassoli hit, Landau did everything she could to extend the match. As the two battled on every point with points lasting with as many as 20 or more rallies, it was the No. 2 doubles match between Harriton’s Shaina Ginsberg and Erika Lutz and Conestoga’s Nina Herman and Coco Kambayashi that decided the match, with Ginsberg and Lutz earning the final point needed to give Harriton its second consecutive PIAA District One Class AAA championship.
“When I saw the No. 2 and No. 3 singles courts come off, I knew we were down 2-0, and I had to do everything possible to extend the match,” said Landau, whose match ended just after Harriton clinched the title. “Sophia is really good and I tried my best.”
“Cassidy played really well today,” said Sassoli. “She hit a solid ball and every time I thought I hit a winner she would get it back. She did a good job. After seeing Connie (Richards) at No. 3 singles and Saige (Roshkoff) at No. 2 singles come off, it was tough to focus because I just wanted to finish so I could cheer on my teammates. I knew I had to re-focus but she made it tough and played great. Props to her.”
With Sassoli taking glances at the other courts, she began to feel the match would come down to her with both doubles courts appearing like they were headed to three sets. After Harriton won the first sets on both doubles courts, the Conestoga duos refused to quit, jumping out to early second set leads.
With Herman and Kambayashi holding a 3-0 lead at No. 2 doubles, Ginsberg and Lutz used the changeover to reflect that they needed to step up their game. Just like that, they turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 deficit, and continued to battle before taking a 6-5 lead on their way to winning the set 7-5 and clinching the match.
“We had been down 0-3 before,” Ginsberg said. “We knew we needed to step up our game and take one point at a time.”
Following through with their game plan paid off, as they stayed patient eventually earning the win.
“It feels exhilarating,” said Lutz. “That last shot felt like slow motion. When I saw the shot go long I realized we had done it. It feels great.”
Ginsberg added, “I am happy that I was able to help the team. Today was a team effort and it feels great.”
“I was watching the other courts and when I saw the doubles teams were down I thought they might go three sets,” said Sassoli. “I saw they were down 0-3 and then it was 3-4 and when I saw they had come back and won I was so happy for them especially the way they came back in the second set. It also showed we are a team and it doesn’t matter who gets the points as long as we do it together.”
With Harriton leading 4-0 and the No. 1 doubles court having split sets, the decision was made to play out the third set and Olivia Dodge and Amy Zhang outlasted Nina Hoog and Mackenzie Sherman 6-3 to provide the final score of 4-1.
Harriton and Conestoga now turn their focus toward the state tournament that begins Tuesday. Harriton will play the third-place finisher from District Three, while Conestoga will play the District 12 champion. Both matches are at a site and time to be determined.
Harriton 4, Conestoga 1
Singles – 1. Sassoli (H) def. Landau (C), 6-2, 6-3. 2. Roshkoff (H) def. Aravindihan (C), 6-2, 6-1. 3. Richards (H) def. Wood (C), 6-1, 6-0.
Doubles – 1. Dodge-Zhang (C) def. Hoog-Sherman (H), 6-7 (4-7), 6-0, 6-3. 2. Ginsberg-Lutz (H) def. Herman-Kambayashi (C), 6-2, 7-5.
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