GRATERFORD >> It’s not a case where familiarity breeds comfort.
Certainly not complacency, or even resignation.
Mia Matriccino vs. Allison Root has been the marquee matchup in the Pioneer Athletic Conference three years running. They’ve faced off seven times in high school to date, and other times in tournaments outside the scholastic realm.
Yet they continue to bring a spirited, intense level of competition to their pairings. That was again the case Saturday when they faced off a third time for the championship of the PAC’s Singles Tournament.
Matriccino made it a “three-peat” against her familiar adversary, capping a near-perfect sweep of the tourney with her 6-0, 6-2 victory over Owen J. Roberts’ Root.
In doing so she became only the third three-time league singles tournament, joining St. Pius X’s Maria Rapchinski (1989-91) and Methacton’s Mihaela Codreanu (2012-14) as the only three-time winners in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s 36-year history
The one-sided score notwithstanding, the latest installment of the juniors’ head-to-head series featured extended volleys, bullet-like point scorers and on-court strategies comparable to those seen on a chess board.
“It’s definitely more difficult to play someone when you know their game,” Matriccino, decked out in her third league singles gold medal, said. “It’s more waiting for the moment when you find the right ball to hit … to force errors, and try to be aggressive.”
Root offered Matriccino her most competitive match of the weekend. Mia started out in the second round with a 10-0 pro-set win over Pottstown’s Lili Freese, a 6-0, 6-0 quarterfinal-round sweep of Upper Perkiomen’s Hope Thompson and a 6-0, 6-1 win over SF teammate Cady Krause in the semifinals.
Against Root, Matriccino started out winning their first nine games. But Root, the tournament’s second seed, tightened things up with successive game victories.
“At the beginning of the (second) set, my coaches said I need to be consistent,” Root recalled. “Pick up my level of play and hit better shots.”
“The first set, I drilled my backhand and she struggled,” Mia added. “After she got those two wins, I worked to get a rhythm going, I worked my forehand more.”
Matriccino responded to Root’s surge with one of her own, sweeping the next three games to finish off her latest title bid.
“I try to build my confidence every match,” she added. “I try to trust myself as it goes on, and work at being in the moment.”
Matriccino’s showing headed a big one for Spring-Ford, which advanced all three of its singles participants to next weekend’s District 1 Class AAA tourney. Krause placed third with a 6-0, 6-0 win over teammate Evelyn Mejia, who had extended Root to three sets in their 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 semifinal.
“That’s an amazing feat,” Reagan said of Mia’s three championships.
With one more high-school season left, Matriccino stands to raise that high bar to a loftier height.
“Mia’s serve is one of, if not, the best,” Root noted. “The amount of spin she puts on it is unmatched.”
Toward her own solid showing this fall, Allison noted work on her forehand was key.
“I’m most comfortable with it,” she said. “My backhand has improved, and I use it in addition.”
The PAC’s district-qualifying field was completed by Methacton’s Lauren Montgomery, winner of the fifth-place match with Phoenixville’s Vivona Xu. Montgomery won in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0.
Looking ahead to districts, Matriccino is taking a conservative stance.
“My goal is to get in position to go to states this year,” she said. “I haven’t been able to yet. Take them one at a time.”
Root has a similar focus, and plans on how to prepare for the next level.
“I’m going to work on my serve, and my overall movement,” Allison said. “I want to get my confidence up.”
The top five placers received medals at the conclusion of play. … The district tourney will return to the Springfield YMCA. Two weeks later, the PAC will be back at Perk Valley for its doubles competition.
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