GIRLS TENNIS: Methacton’s Codreanu embraces change, wins third-straight Mercury All-Area Player of the Year

Mihaela Codreanu was coming off a season where she brought home silver medals from the District 1-AAA Championships and the PIAA Championships.

So naturally she wanted to change almost everything.


Codreanu isn’t one for complacency. More accurately, the Methacton junior rejects it.

Completing the most successful season in area girls tennis history wasn’t cause for self-satisfaction. To Codreanu, it called for more improvement even if it required changes, tweaks or overhauls to parts of her game.

The payoff to the offseason changes — including her serve, forehand, volleys and even a new racket — came in the fall with her third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference singles championship before taking a step further at districts by winning her first District 1-AAA singles title.

Her run at the PIAA Championships was cut short with an upset in the first round to eventual finalist Anna Li of North Allegheny, but the loss didn’t erase the progress made by Codreanu, the now three-time Mercury All-Area Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

“The district championship was very special,’ Codreanu said. “It was my goal to win it and I’m really glad I did. (The final) was a good match and I felt I pulled through the first set and continued with a strong second set. I was very happy; it was definitely my highlight of the year.’

Winning the title in straight sets over Downingtown West’s Payton Bradley, 6-4, 6-0, was validation for the adjustments she committed to making during the winter and a busy summer of tennis leading into the scholastic season.

The changes were brought about in part by her training solely out of Legacy Youth Tennis and Education in Philadelphia.

“I’ve been working a lot with the coaches there,’ she said. “I’ve changed some of my shots in the way I hit them. Some of the big changes have been my serve, my forehand, my volleys — a bit of everything.

“You have to take a step back to move forward. I definitely took some steps back, took some tough losses (prior to the scholastic season), but I was learning and it’s a learning process. But playing and using the new techniques you’ve learned gives you confidence for future matches.’

It took root during a summer filled with playing junior tournaments — Codreanu is currently ranked No. 5 in Girls’ 18s in the USTA Middle States rankings (top among players participating in Pa. high school tennis) — as far away as southern California.

“The summer was great. I had the opportunity to travel a lot — I went to California, Tennessee, and I played a lot. I was in the Fed Cup for the girls’ (USTA) Middle States. They take only six girls and they send you to California and you play against other sections. That was a great experience,’ Codreanu said. “And from there I played a tournament in San Diego, right after the Fed Cup. It was a big, national tournament and I got to see great players. I think I got more experience.’

During the Methacton season, while not every match tests her in the way she might be in a junior tournament, Codreanu doesn’t view it as having easy matches, she sees it as valuable time on the court to hone her craft.

“High school tennis is a little bit less competitive, however, it gives me the opportunity to practice those things in match situations. Maybe you lose a couple games (as you work on new techniques) but it gives you confidence in the shots when you do make them. I use every opportunity that I have.

“And of course high school tennis is a team. Tennis is very individual, so it’s fun to be a part of a team.’

With Codreanu going undefeated in the regular season, the Warriors went unbeaten for their fifth straight PAC-10 title. The Methacton team postseason didn’t extend like it did in 2013 when it finished second in the PIAA Team Tournament, lasting just one round of districts.

Individually, Codreanu captured her third straight PAC-10 title with a convincing 6-1, 6-2 victory over Owen J. Roberts’ Meredith Lee, who had taken a set off the Methacton No. 1 in their regular season match and went on to finish third in District 1 and reach the PIAA semifinals.

She rolled into the district tournament by dropping only two games in her first two rounds and then earned a return trip to the final with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Wissahickon’s Katherine Devlin.

Three weeks later — the district final is played weeks after the first four rounds as a lead-up to the PIAA tourney — in the final, Codreanu’s best tennis wasn’t present in the first set. But she found a way to come through after dropping four straight games to go down 2-4 and pull out the set by winning four straight of her own.

Codreanu, who grew up in Romania and moved to the U.S. six years ago at age 11, is one of the more even-keeled players you’ll find on a tennis court. But the first set of the final called for something more.

“There’s definitely that fire that comes out in very competitive matches,’ she said. “I lost a number of games in a row and I knew I had to step it up and pump myself up.’

In the second set, Codreanu exuded confidence, striking the ball with the power and depth that has come to be expected of her, to cruise on for the gold medal that eluded her as a sophomore.

A similar fate wasn’t meant to be at the PIAA Championships in Hershey, a first round 7-5, 7-6 (5) loss to Li, the District 7 third-place finisher who Codreanu had played and beaten previously in a junior tournament, ending Codreanu’s season with a 22-1 record.

Talking tennis after a casual hit recently inside Kinetix Sports Club, just down the road from Methacton High School, Codreanu speaks with conviction about embracing the process. It’s when the wisdom and maturity that it takes to succeed in such a mental sport comes out, too.

“It was really important to play and stay with it and do what the coaches said with all the tweaks; just focus on that rather than on winning because it’s important to not just leave it to practice and do whatever you’re used to in matches,’ she said.

“It’s definitely hard (to not fall into old habits), but it’s important to avoid that because otherwise you aren’t going to move forward.’

Forward seems to be the only direction Codreanu allows herself to face, no matter the changes that come her way.



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