GRATERFORD >> The next generation of Pioneer Athletic Conference stars was on center court this weekend.
They promise to put together a productive run for the next handful of years.
Youth was well served at Perkiomen Valley during the PAC’s Singles/Doubles Tournament. The two singles finalists and one doubles champion from the two-day competition all hail from the Class of 2024, with the other doubles champ a sophomore.
Leading the way was Spring-Ford top seed Mia Matriccino, who completed a straight-set sweep to her first singles title with a two-set win over fellow ninth-grader and second seed Allison Root of Owen J. Roberts. In the doubles bracket, Methacton freshman Hana Nouaime and sophomore Alice Liang had their own straight-set sweep, capped by a 6-2, 6-1 win over the Rams’ seniors Lucy Olsen and Emily Tiffan.
“I was really excited about it,” Matriccino, who dropped just four games on the weekend — three of them in the final — said about her PAC title. “It was important for me to come out well.”
Matriccino was in command through the final match, going 6-1 to start before winning the second set 6-2. Her one loss in the first set came in the fifth game, and in the second she put together a four-win run after she and Root split the first two games.
She credited her serving as a key aspect of her play in the tournament.
“Especially this match,” Matriccino said. “I got a lot of points off my serves.”
“She’s a great player, very smart and confident,” SF head coach Todd Reagan said of his star freshman. “She’s always analyzing a match … a good assessor of how a match is going, and improving. Very cerebral.”
Root, who made the final by dispatching the Rams’ Isabel Mejia, last year’s PAC runner-up, in the semifinals 6-3, 6-2, showed evidence of frustration during the match, periodically heard to comment after missed shots and points.
“Allison is such a good player,” Reagan noted, “and Mia has the ability to push an opponent to have to play her absolute best. It can be frustrating to have to play a perfect match.”
On her road to the singles championship, Matriccino supplanted a teammate in the semifinals. Cady Krause, Spring-Ford’s third-singles player who was the 2019 PAC Singles champ and Mercury All-Area Player of the Year, was handled by Matriccino, 6-0, 6-1.
Understandably, she had mixed feelings about that circumstance.
“Cady and I are good friends,” she said. “It’s hard to play her in a competitive match.”
The doubles competition featured a Methacton duo announced as their team’s representative this past week. They also admitted having played as a doubles entry once before, as 12-year-olds in a United States Tennis Association tournament.
“We had an idea we were going to play doubles, but we weren’t sure,” Liang said. “But we know each other.”
“We play at the same place,” Nouaime added.
That familiarity enabled the top-seeded Warriors to handle the third-seeded Olsen/Tiffan tandem, which was extended to a tiebreaker by Perk Valley’s Gracie Strohecker and Kaitlyn Murphy in their semifinal, 6-2 and 7-6 (6).
“They are very good,” Liang said. “They gave us trouble at one point.”
“We weren’t good at the start,” Nouaime added, “but then we got consistent.”
Normally Methacton’s first- and second-singles performers, Liang and Nouaime were tabbed for double play by head coach Jill Walker. With a smaller field of schools competing, there were only nine in the doubles bracket.
“You had to pick singles or doubles,” Walker explained. “You need a good strategy because Spring-Ford is so tough.
“Good chemistry pulls it out on the court,” she added. “Hana and Alice know each other and work out together. They balance each other out … they balance each other out and play a well-rounded game. They love to be aggressive at the net.”
The singles and doubles finalists now advance to the District 1 Tournament, to be played Oct. 23-24 at a site to be announced. Like the PACs, it will combine both singles and doubles play.
NOTES >> Spring-Ford had the most semifinal competitors with five. Owen J., Perk Valley and Pottsgrove (Kyla Hutchinson/Paige Lang) had the other three. … Reagan noted having nine teams playing in the league this fall was key to the PAC getting two singles and doubles berths in districts.