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PHS tennis pulls out D-11 gold

Throughout the 2021 season, the Parkland girls tennis team proved it was good. Last Thursday, the Trojans proved they were clutch.

Parkland came out on top of a winner-take-all, three-set match to defeat Stroudsburg 3-2 and earn the District 11 Class 3A girls team title at Lehigh University. With the win, Parkland improved to 20-1 overall.

“You could say it was very nerve-racking,” said Parkland coach Michael Hingston. “They had us on the ropes. But our girls didn’t panic and we were able to gut it out.”

The number one doubles match determined the outcome. It was dramatic and tense as the players became aware during the three-hour battle it would decide the title. It featured Parkland senior Kaila Miles and junior Anshika Gupta against the Mountaineers’ Alison Willis and Katie Hosko. The experience of Miles and Gupta proved a factor. In addition, the duo showcased teamwork to win various key volleys, which ultimately determined the outcome.

“In general, they have seven years of experience between singles and doubles play,” said Hingston.

The duo lost a frustrating first set 6-7 (3-7), and saved the Trojans’ season with a 7-6 (7-4) squeaker to set up the deciding set. There was little theater in the final stanza as Miles and Gupta rolled, 6-1. In that final set, Miles and Gupta became more assertive, allowing them to dictate many points.

One could argue part of the reason Parkland performed well under the pressure is it didn’t view it as pressure. Hingston focuses on preparing his players to learn the sport and improve each time out. When that is accomplished he said, winning will result.

The match ended an afternoon of competitive tennis under a beautiful mid-October sun and pleasant temperatures. Stroudsburg took a 1-0 lead when Paras Brigel dismissed Parkland’s Erin Joo 6-0, 6-2.

Parkland responded by winning number two and three singles. Leah Zolotareva, who has been Parkland’s most consistent player this season, took care of Emma Schomberg 6-2, 6-2. Gigi Leonzi, who matured into a fine tennis player this season, had little trouble downing Rachel Traub 6-1, 6-0.

Stroudsburg proved worthy opposition when number two doubles Sophia Loomis and Lana Marsh beat Sophia Petrocelli and Sophie Elijovich 6-3, 6-2 to tie the match at 2-2.

The road to the District 11 title began with a 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Nazareth last Monday. One day later, the Trojans handled Easton a 4-1 loss in the semis.

The win gave Hingston his fourth district title. When asked to assess how this team compares to great Parkland teams he’s led in the past, Hingston cited their youth.”

“It is impressive how good they are given their youth,” said Hingston. “I think that makes them a little unique. The other thing is this group really likes each other.”

The Trojans will next take to the courts in first round PIAA 3A tournament action Oct. 26.

“In order to be successful we should play a consistent style of tennis,” the coach said. “We can’t afford to make nervous mistakes or unforced errors. But we are battle-tested. I mean winning this tournament was not easy. Now that we’ve done that there is a sense of relief. I think we can play (at states) a little loose.”

PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Parkland senior Kaila Miles and her doubles partner helped the Trojans seal this year's District 11 title by winning the deciding match in three sets.
PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Parkland junior Anshika Gupta was part of a doubles match that decided the District 11 title in the Trojans' favor.
PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Parkland's Sophia Petrocelli returns a shot during the district tournament.
PRESS PHOTO BY DON HERB Parkland's Sophia Elijovich returns a volley durin the district tournament.