AMBLER >> The Spring-Ford girls tennis team has made the District 1-3A team tournament many times in recent history. Yet the Rams had never won a match up until this fall.
But based on the last four days, give them an inch, they’ll take a title.
No. 4 seed Spring-Ford rattled off three wins including a 4-1 victory over No. 2 Wissahickon to capture its first District 1-3A team championship Tuesday at Wissahickon.
Spring-Ford built an insurmountable 3-0 lead through No. 1 singles Mia Matriccino, No. 1 doubles team Lucy Olsen and Emily Tiffan and No. 2 singles player Isabel Mejia on the clincher.
Fabulous freshman Matriccino, the Pioneer Athletic Conference singles tournament champion, defeated Wissahickon senior Hannah Wang, 6-2, 6-0; seniors Olsen and Tiffan topped Saarchi Mehta and Lily Solomon 6-4, 6-2; and junior Mejia was a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Nicole Zappin.
No. 2 doubles team Alexis Luo and Evelyn Mejia were 7-5, 6-2 winners over Claira Baldasano and Katie Lu for S-F’s fourth team point. Wissahickon got its win from Ella Chang at No. 3 singles, a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 winner over Cady Krause.
The Rams featured only two seniors in Olsen and Tiffan among its top seven, making it clear they are no longer ‘new to the party’ as head coach Todd Reagan described the team’s past forays into district team play.
“We hadn’t made districts until 2016 and we’ve had good teams and even home matches in districts but we would manage to lose 3-2 each time. We just couldn’t get over the hump. We felt like we were new to the party,” Reagan said. “But for the older kids now, all they know is making it to districts as a team. Before they didn’t know they belong here, but now they know they belong.
“And the younger kids, they have ice in their veins. They are able to stay confident and calm at all times. They are unbelievable how they stay confident and unwavering in the face of adversity.”
Spring-Ford’s win in the final was its most decisive of the tournament after topping West Chester Henderson 3-2 last Saturday and No. 1 seed Unionville 3-2 on Monday.
“Everything was super close, but I think these kids all believe they are going to pull it out in the end. They don’t lack confidence,” Reagan said. “We really went through a who’s who in the district playoffs. You talk about Henderson, Unionville and Wissahickon, these are teams that are so well coached and in here all the time. To be able to match up against these three schools and beat three incredible teams says a million things about them.”
Matriccino has burst onto the scene, slotting right into the No. 1 singles position for the Rams. A high level junior player, it’s been a welcome experience having a team to compete for.
“I’m definitely not used to having a team with me, and even with doubles, I really don’t play it that much. It’s definitely different, but a lot of fun to have a whole team supporting you rather than just my parents,” Matriccino said. “I think it gave me more motivation and drive because I wanted to win matches not just for myself, but for the team. I didn’t want to let the team down. That helped me push myself to play even harder.”
Matriccino’s consistency and shotmaking proved too much for Wang, who was the Suburban One League Liberty Division champion. But the Trojans senior was pleased with her and her team’s run despite the result.
“This year we’ve had a really good season. We had a lot of returning players and a lot of the freshmen from last year played a key role in doubles,” Wang said. “Going into the district tournament we came from being league champions and undefeated so I think everyone’s feeling really good. I’m really excited about how well we did. Regardless of how the score turned out today, I’m really proud of how well we did.”
The No. 1 doubles team of Olsen and Tiffan is better known as standouts of the Spring-Ford girls basketball team – Olsen is two-time Mercury All-Area Player of the Year – but got their first taste of district glory Tuesday.
“ I’m excited,” said Olsen. “It’s our first district ‘chip. Hopefully we get another one this year.”
“Especially for tennis, our team hasn’t done this in the past. To be a part of that is really cool,” Tiffan said.
The senior duo fell in their first two district matches, so they were determined to not go 0-3.
“Our team has really carried us. We were like, ‘Third time’s a charm. We’re not losing this,’” Olsen said. “Our team’s really carried us here so we’ve got to finish the business.”
With its top 3 players being a freshman, junior and sophomore, the two departing seniors feel fortunate to have been able to contribute to Spring-Ford announcing itself on the district stage.
“Our team is really young so I don’t think we were expecting it this year but we kind of blew through the PAC,” Olsen said. “Our freshman and underclassmen are really kind of carrying us so I give all the credit to them. Luckily we’re a part of it.”
Spring-Ford 4, Wissahickon 1
Singles: Mia Matriccino (SF) def. Hannah Wang, 6-2, 6-0; Isabel Mejia (SF) def. Nicole Zappin, 6-3, 6-2; Ella Chang (W) def. Cady Krause, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.
Doubles: Lucy Olsen/Emily Tiffan (SF) def. Saarchi Mehta/Lily Solomon, 6-4, 6-2; Alexis Luo/Evelyn Mejia (SF) def. Claira Bladasano/Katie Lu, 7-5, 6-2.