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Reigning PIAA champ Spring-Ford earns return to Hershey

The Spring-Ford girls tennis team poses for a photo after winning their PIAA 3A first round match over Parkland on Oct. 26 in Allentown. (Austin Hertzog - MediaNews Group)

Spring-Ford’s Isabel Mejia hits a serve agaisnt Parkland’s Leah Zolotareva during their No. 2 singles match on Oct. 26. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

ALLENTOWN >> Last season was like a lightning strike around the Spring-Ford girls’ tennis team. That applies to the span of the season and the Rams’ performance in it.

The pandemic-altered 2020 season started on Sept. 25 and concluded 37 days later with Spring-Ford improbably raising the PIAA Class 3A team championship trophy.

The Rams have been able to savor this fall more, but it wouldn’t have been too sweet without earning the opportunity to defend their crown in Hershey.

Spring-Ford ensured its season would end back in Hershey on Tuesday with a 4-1 victory over District 11 champion Parkland at Winning Touch Tennis in Allentown.

“It’s really satisfying because we’re defending our title,” said S-F sophomore Evelyn Mejia. “We won states last year, but there was also COVID, which meant a bunch of teams didn’t participate.

“There are more challenges this year, but we’re still hungry.”

Pioneer Athletic Conference champion and District 1 No. 4 seed Spring-Ford (17-3) clinched the match in three results, headed by a sweep of the doubles.

Rams’ No. 1 and two-time PAC singles champion Mia Matriccino received a forfeit from Parkland’s Erin Joo to put S-F on the board.

No. 2 doubles duo Lana Hang and Chloe Moore cruised by Parkland’s Sophia Petrocelli and Sophie Elijovich, 6-1, 6-1.

Earning the clincher was No. 1 doubles team Alexis Luo and Evelyn Mejia in a 7-6 (5), 6-0 win over Parkland’s Anshika Gupta and Kaila Miles.

Spring-Ford’s Alexis Luo, left, and Evelyn Mejia congratulate one another after a point during their win at No. 1 doubles against Parkland. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Junior Cady Krause prevailed 6-1, 6-4 over Gigi Leonzi at No. 3 singles for S-F’s fourth point. Parkland’s Leah Zolotareva got past S-F’s Isabel Mejia 7-5, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.

Spring-Ford will face State College – a 3-1 winner over Cumberland Valley in Tuesday’s first round – in the second round of the PIAA tournament on Friday at 9:30 a.m. The tournament concludes Saturday with the final being contested at 4 p.m.

The sophomore doubles duo of Luo and Mejia were the Rams’ No. 2 doubles team in 2020 and were undefeated, a virtual automatic point in the run to the state title. It hasn’t been as easy sailing in recent weeks for the now-No. 1 team with losses in the district team semis and third-place match as well as in tournament play (they were 4th at PACs), so Tuesday’s result was exactly what they needed.

“We had a couple losses in district doubles and team districts so it feels really good to win, especially with it being 6-0 in the last set,” Mejia said. “Last year we were undefeated. We never lost, but after losing (this year) we kind of got into a funk and were getting down, but today really helped us.”

The higher stakes of an elimination match helped raise their level, according to Luo.

“There’s more motivation,” she said. “The last couple matches, if we lost it was OK (because it wasn’t an elimination match). This time, we have to win.”

They took to heart some pre-match words of wisdom from sophomore No. 1 Matriccino, last year’s Mercury All-Area Player of the Year.

“Mia was talking earlier and was saying that we’ve recently been focusing on our losses. We needed to reset and think about now and winning now,” Luo said.

Spring-Ford’s Chloe Moore, left, speaks with partner Lana Hang during their No. 2 doubles match. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)

Even with last year’s Spring-Ford team returning five of its top seven that claimed the District 1 and PIAA titles a year ago, the excitement of getting back to Hershey Racquet Club wasn’t lost on the Rams.

“It’s really exciting,” Luo said. “Last year was modified, it didn’t quite feel like the whole experience that this year is. It’s been more drawn out and felt more impactful, more important.”

The Rams have successfully drawn the season out to the final weekend. Now all that’s left is to find out is if lightning can strike twice.

NOTES >> A win in the second round would set up a likely rematch with District 1 champion Conestoga in the semifinals. SF and Conestoga have played twice in the last two weeks with the Pioneers winning 5-2 on Oct. 7 and 4-1 on Oct. 14 in the district semis.

Spring-Ford 4, Parkland 1

Singles: Mia Matriccino (SF) def. Erin Joo, forfeit; Leah Zolotareva (P) def. Isabel Mejia, 7-5, 6-3; Cady Krause (SF) def. Gigi Leonzi, 6-1, 6-4.

Doubles: Evelyn Mejia/Alexis Luo (SF) def. Anshika Gupta/Kaila Miles, 7-6 (5), 6-0; Lana Hang/Chloe Moore (SF) def. Sophia Petrocelli/Sophie Elijovich, 6-1, 6-1.

Spring-Ford’s Cady Krause hits a forehand against Parkland’s Gigi Leonzi during their No. 3 singles match on Oct. 26. (Austin Hertzog – MediaNews Group)


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