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North Penn’s Velaga claims District 1-3A singles title

District 1-3A singles champ Neha Velaga of North Penn (left) and Council Rock North’s Amelia Honer, who placed second, pose with their medals after the district singles final Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018. (Evan Easterling/For Digital First Media)

PHILADELPHIA >> Council Rock North coach Linda Morrin could tell Amelia Honer wasn’t at 100 percent when she walked the stairs to the court.

“I made her look at me, and I said, ‘Amelia, you’re in states. If you feel like you’re doing more damage, then you have to retire,’” Morrin said. “She said to me, ‘I’m fine. I’ll play through this. I’m not a quitter.’ But she just couldn’t go. You could see it on her face. She couldn’t move.”

North Penn’s Neha Velaga won Wednesday’s District 1 Class AAA singles final at the Legacy Youth Tennis and Education Center after Honer had to retire with Velaga leading, 4-1, in the first set due to a left hamstring injury.

Both players advance to PIAA singles tournament, which begins on Nov. 2 at the Hershey Racquet Club. Velaga plays District 7’s third-place finisher Mia Gorman of Bethel Park, while Honer faces the District 6 champ Jenee Delerme of Holidaysburg.

Honer slipped while leaving school Monday, which led to the injury. She worked with her private coach Tuesday, and Morrin joined them at the court when the instructor said Honer was not at 100 percent.

Before the match, Honer received cupping therapy Wednesday morning and was told she could play through the injury if she felt comfortable. She won the first game and led 30-0 while serving in the second game. Velaga broke Honer to tie the match and then won the next three points before Honer called for the trainer and retired.

Honer doesn’t have any muscle damage, Morrin said, and will try to recover in time for the state tournament in Hershey.

“Three-quarters of her game is making her opponent hit another ball, and if she can’t get to it, she can’t make her hit it,” Morrin said.

The two friends looked forward to playing Wednesday. In Council Rock North’s first match of the season, Honer and Velaga battled for three sets in a nearly three-hour match.

“That’s what I thought what we were going to see, something more like on those terms, maybe not three sets, but something more competitive, but you could tell something was wrong out there,” North Penn coach Alex DeCecco said.

In the Class AAA doubles final, Methacton’s run through the district playoffs came to an end. After entering the tournament as the No. 6 seed and losing their first set, 6-0, Tina Prince and Dina Nouaime made a run to the title match. The Warriors’ duo lost to Harriton’s Sophia Sassoli and Saige Roshkoff, 6-0, 6-0.

“We were pretty solid and aggressive at net,” Roshkoff said. “We had good serve placement and looked to poach off of that, and we played smart and did what we had to do.”

“I think we had really good energy into the match, which helped us start strong and then we kind of got some confidence from that and then that confidence helped us maintain pretty good tennis,” Sassoli said.

Roshkoff said she and Sassoli did well with their play at the net and serve placement. Before each serve, they signaled to the other where to expect the serve to go and move once it was returned.

Sassoli will make her first appearance in the doubles tournament. She and Connie Richards won the 2016 district title, but Sassoli could not play in states because of another tournament. Sassoli and Roshkoff will play in the team states competition for the fourth straight year.

In doubles, the Harriton duo faces the District 7’s third place team of Jenna Bell and Addison Kemerer of Latrobe, while Methacton faces District 6 champ Kelly Vanden and Catelyn Janac of State College.

Methacton coach Jill Walker said Harriton had the “strongest hitting ball we’ve played against the whole tournament.” Prince and Nouaime return to states after reaching the competition last year.

“I think it was great, actually, to give them the opportunity to see what the best of the best really is like,” Walker said. “These two were really strong, so it’ll give them good experience to see what they’re going to get a taste of at states for sure.”

District 1 Class AAA Girls Tennis
Final: Neha Velaga (North Penn) def. Council Rock North Amelia Honer (Council Rock North) 4-1 (retired)
Third Place: Jordan Bradley (Downingtown West) def. Souderton Caitlin Le (Souderton) 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.
Fifth Place: Sydney Lund (Central Bucks East) def. Stow Weiss (Mt. St. Joseph) 6-4, 6-4.
Final: Sophia Sassoli/Saige Roshkoff (Harriton) def. Tina Prince/Dina Nouaime (Methacton) 6-0, 6-0
Third Place: Kanon Ciarrocchi/Lucy Hederick (Radnor) def. Downingtown West Holly/Sophia Koons (Downingtown West) 6-2, 6-2.
Fifth Place: Hannah Baxter/Jessica Liu (West Chester Henderson) def. Ksenija Tasich/Belinda Jin (Upper Dublin) 3-6, 6-4, 6-4.



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