GIRLS TENNIS: Owen J. Roberts’ Lee falls in PIAA-AAA semifinals

HERSHEY — Meredith Lee’s dream of playing for a state championship petered out like a wavering backhand return into the net in the semifinal round of the PIAA Class AAA singles tournament.

The Owen J. Roberts sophomore stayed with, but could never gain an edge against the eventual state champ in Shady Side Academy’s Ananya Dua.

Dua took out Lee by a 6-3, 6-4 count in the Class AAA semifinal Saturday morning at Hershey Racquet Club. Dua later won the gold medal in straight sets over WPIAL rival Anna Li of North Allegheny.

In her first state appearance, Lee showed tremendous poise and some serious potential with her game, but could not overcome a number of unforced errors. Those errors stilted her shot at claiming the second set when Dua encountered service game issues seemingly out of nowhere.

Lee briefly took a 3-2 lead in the second, then lost a heartbreaking ninth game during the frame in deuce to fall back at 4-5. Dua then closed it out on serve to advance to the final.

Lee sensed the opening presented her and adjusted her game accordingly, winning three straight games to nab the 3-2 lead. But she could not sustain it. The loss at 4-4 in deuce was a killer.

“I tried to mix my game up a little bit more, play out wide, drop her short,’ Lee said. “I tried to move her around, especially during the second set. I just couldn’t pull it out. She’s the type of player who keeps on grinding. And those are the kinds of players I have to watch out for, because they are going to be doing that throughout the entire match.”

Dua double-faulted or had first-service misfires a number of times during her three-game second-set skid. Lee knew it was her chance to get back after dropping the first set but tried not think about it.

“I sensed it but I tried not to think about it, because it messes with my mind a bit,’ she said. “I don’t have that much regret, because I thought I played really well.’

Lee did prove she certainly belonged here, however. Stunning first-round losses on Friday by District 1’s other two entrants, top-seeded district champ Mihaela Codreanu of Methacton and Payton Bradley of Downingtown West didn’t pave the way for her, but it did shift the spotlight.

While those two stumbled on Friday, the OJR sophomore earned her way in, clipping D-3 champ Katina Jones of Penn Manor and District 6’s top player in Yvonne Peters of State College by uncoiling powerful ground strokes — assets she continued to display on Saturday.

The journey proved quite the ride for a player who lost in the district quarterfinals one year ago as a freshman. And she’s got two more shots at it.

“It’s really exciting,’ she said. “I’m just trying to not put any more pressure on me. I’m only a sophomore. I really hope I can keep climbing the ladder and I’m going to keep practicing hard and see how much better I can get.”



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