Mihaela Codreanu has spent the bulk of her high school tennis career playing from ahead. Such is the case considering the Methacton senior has won three Pioneer Athletic Conference championships and entered Wednesday’s District 1-AAA singles final as the reigning champion.
Maybe she should have tried playing from behind more often.
She proved she certainly has a knack for that, too.
Methacton’s Codreanu made it back-to-back District 1-AAA singles titles by coming from behind in both sets against Owen J. Roberts junior Meredith Lee to win 6-4, 7-5, at Legacy Youth Tennis and Education in Philadelphia.
“It was a good match and winning the final and the semifinal after losing (to Lee and Downingtown West’s Payton Bradley earlier in the season) beforehand make the victory much sweeter,” Codreanu said.
“It definitely makes it more special and it is my senior year – my last year – so I’m very happy.”
Happiness for Codreanu was far from a given while going up against Lee, a player who unseated Codreanu as PAC-10 champion on Oct. 5 (6-3, 6-2) to deny the Methacton senior a career sweep of the league title.
“I can’t be too disappointed,” Lee said. “I lost to Mihaela and obviously she knows how to hit the ball pretty well. Yeah, I would have like to have been district champion, but we’ll see how it plays out at states.
“I’m pretty proud of the way I played. I was all in it. My head was really in the game.”
There are more matches in store for the finalists from the all-PAC-10 final when the PIAA Championships begin Friday, Nov. 6. Both have had their share of success in Hershey, Codreanu earning the silver medal as a sophomore while Lee reached the Final Four a year ago.
Lee, who was the third-place finisher at last year’s District 1 championships, started the first set brightly and went up 4-2.
In what felt like the first of many crucial moments, Codreanu came up with the goods, striking a forehand winner down the line to break back for 4-3.
Lee’s forehand, which was likely the most potent shot for either player in the match, faltered at 4-4 and Codreanu served out the first set 6-4, taking four straight games.
“I thought I was hitting the ball pretty well but I wasn’t making enough. I needed to make more shots when it counted most. She obviously got a lot of balls back; her defense is really good, as well as her offense.
“I couldn’t seal those points when I really needed to.”
The match seemingly turned early in the second set when Lee brought the fight to go up 2-1. The intensity of match took a major step up in the second set with more attacking play plus a pair of disputed line calls that went against Lee to ratchet things up even more.
“She’s very competitive, too. That always brings things up a notch … I dare to say rivals. We go back and forth and that always makes it really competitive,” Lee said.
Lee remained the aggressor and worked her way to 5-3 with assertive inside-out forehand leading the way. But up 40-0 with triple set point, things unraveled.
Codreanu broke the momentum, got the game to deuce and eventually broke Lee’s serve to close within 5-4.
Codreanu’s consistency from the baseline in the late stages, all while battling her ball toss and serve, ruled the day as she closed it out 7-5 with an unreturnable crosscourt forehand.
“I think it can go both ways (when the opponent is ahead late in a set),” Codreanu said. “She may get a little tight, a little nervous and I just try to stay focused, one point at a time. Be in the point. No ripping the return, stay in the point and make her work, make her feel the tension and the pressure.
“Thankfully I played well in those moments.”
NOTES >> West Chester Henderson’s Amanda Baxter and Emma Clark won the AAA doubles championship, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2 over Conestoga’s Maddie Wood and Ashley Griffith. … In the singles third-place match, Downingtown West’s Bradley, a finalist in 2014, defeated Harriton’s Nina Hoog, 6-1, 6-0.