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DLN ALL-AREA: Downingtown West’s Bradley keeps it in family, caps career with another honor

The Bradley name has become synonymous with tennis excellence at Downingtown West. Jordan Bradley has seen it through to its natural conclusion.

The Whippets’ senior ace, Jordan Bradley wrapped her scholastic career this fall with a second consecutive Chest-Mont League title — following in the career footsteps of older sister Payton, who won four. That makes six consecutive seasons in which a Bradley sister has won the league title.

For her continued success and a nearly-unbeaten run through the local slate this season, Bradley repeats as the Daily Local News’ All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

Bradley’s ascension to the top spot at Downingtown West, following two seasons as understudy to Payton, seemed as natural as two sisters growing up playing a sport together. In fact, they’ll be teammates once again next season, when Jordan joins Payton at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.

“I am so excited about that,” Jordan said. “Hopefully, we’ll be playing doubles together. All summer, we’ll be working and practicing together, which is going to be great.”

Jordan credited Payton for helping develop her mental game during their two years together as Whippets, as good a 1-2 punch as any in the region.

“What was good about having her with me for those two years, was that I got to see her and learned a lot from her and was able to think about how to prepare for when she was gone,” Bradley, 18, said of her older sister. “So I was able to be a lot more prepared than other might be, as opposed to jumping in at No. 1 as a freshman. Being No. 2 and learning from her helped me gain confidence. If you have the confidence, you can accomplish so much more than you think you can.”

The timeline of Jordan becoming the No. 1 at West also dovetailed with Justin Depietropaolo’s appointment as West head coach.

“Jordan is very mentally tough and a very gritty player,” said Depietropaolo, the second-year head coach. “She doesn’t lose to players that she’s supposed to beat. Her biggest thing is her confidence. She goes into every match expecting to win. As far as her strokes, she’s a powerful player and when’s she’s on, she hits right through people.

“She was the best No. 2 player in District 1, if not whole state, when I came on board. When you’re at 2, you don’t see the best opponents at every school. When you step up to 1, you’re getting the best. We scheduled some pretty good opponents over the past two years, so when you’re playing Conestoga, you’re getting Conestoga’s best. Souderton, so she got to play Caitlin Le. And so on. She was able to rise to the task.”

An aggressive baseliner who consistently attacks points, Bradley compiled a 15-1 record during her senior regular season campaign, losing only to Caitlin Le of Souderton. She gained a measure of retribution later, however, by beating her good friend Le in the District 1 third-place match by a 7-6 (5), 6-2 score, ahead of states.

“As the years have gone on, I’ve gotten a better court sense,” Bradley said. “I’ve become smarter with my shot selection and that’s helped me so much going into big tournaments. … If you have more of that knowledge, the court sense, you have an edge.”

Depietropaolo said, “When she’s able to set up on the ball, especially the forehand side, she hits through the ball perfectly. If she gets a short ball, she’s gonna put that ball away, because that ball travels off her racquet faster than a lot of girls in the area.”

Bradley defeated West Chester Henderson’s Hannah Baxter 6-2, 6-4 in the Ches-Mont League final to win the league crown for a second straight season. “It’s great, but it’s tough. It’s a good tournament to win,” she said.

Bradley’s final high school postseason run from there was heavy on déjà vu.

Clinching the third slot out of District 1 set Bradley on a collision course with North Allegheny’s Ashley Huang in the state quarterfinals. Huang triumphed 6-1, 6-2 and eventually made it to the state championship match — where she lost to North Penn’s Neha Velaga.

It was Velaga who had stopped Bradley in the District 1 semifinals a couple weeks prior by a 6-2, 6-2 score. Bradley had defeated McDowell’s Lindsey Fadden 6-2, 6-0 in her first-round PIAA match earlier that opening day at Hershey Racquet Club. Fadden and Velaga were the same two state opponents for a second consecutive season for Bradley.

“At the end of the day, I gave it my best shot,” Bradley said. “Yeah, it was a little disappointing. Senior year, last thing you want to do is lose second round on the first day of states. I just had to move on and let it go.

“I’ve learned a lot about myself. A lot of things you learn from tennis you can apply to everyday life, which is so important. And that’s why I love tennis, and high school tennis, so much.”

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