PHS wins third straight D-11 crown
In not so many words, the Liberty and Parkland girls tennis teams dared each other to “bring it” at the District 11 Class 3A team tennis final on Oct. 12 at Lehigh University.
“There are years when you get here, and you might have a team you can dominate...I knew that wasn’t gonna be the case today,” said Parkland head coach Mike Hingston. “I kind of figured it could very well be a 3-2 match either way.”
Officially, Parkland won the district final 3-0 with two matches left unfinished, and the Trojans were crowned district champions for a third consecutive year.
“It’s a great full circle moment, and it’s special to do it with this group of girls,” said Parkland No. 3 singles player Sophia Petrocelli, the only senior in the Trojans’ starting line up.
Petrocelli’s match against Sophia Csatari was the first to finish (6-2, 6-1).
“I knew [Coach Hingston] was pretty confident in my win,” Petrocelli said. “Today, it was a little tricky. She was hitting some deep and high balls, so I knew I had to wait and go for my chances. You can’t really be aggressive on those, so you have to place them. I was being aggressive when I could, trying to push her back and then use a drop shot to draw her in.”
The two Sophias rallied on the far right tennis court while the No. 2 doubles match was playing out on the far left.
Parkland’s Ali Silman and Kiana Miles defeated Isabella Cantelmi and Rachel Lin (6-4, 6-2), giving the Trojans a 2-0 team lead.
Next to Silman and Miles was the No. 1 doubles match between Parkland’s Aarohi Vaze and Kiera Miles and Liberty’s Ava Sabetti and Abby Mayes, a pivotal match at the time.
Sabetti and Mayes won the first set for the Hurricanes.
“I think there were some nerves there,” said Hingston of his players. “They were moving a little too fast, breathing a little too heavy, and then there were some different strategies there. At some point, the Liberty girls were playing two back, and I tried to tell them to hit the ball in the middle in the beginning of the point to shrink the angles. That also might generate some confusion because of the ball in the middle of two players, which you usually don’t get to do in doubles because there’s usually a net player up there.”
Vaze and Miles won the second set for the Trojans, and Liberty coach Chris Conrad took every opportunity to talk to his players to ensure they were battling for every point.
“I was loud today, primarily because they needed positivity. That was my only goal,” said Conrad. “Even when we were down 4-0 at second doubles, we came back and made it a match, and that was our goal, to give ‘em hell and see what we can do. But Parkland had to earn it, and they earned it.”
Vaze and Miles put away the third set, which decided the doubles match (4-6, 6-4, 6-3) and the team match.
“[Liberty] competed with a real intensity, they played confident tennis, and they played inspired tennis. I think they had a game plan that they stuck to throughout,” said Hingston. “Especially in doubles, they hit a lot of short balls to draw our girls in, and it took us awhile to get accustomed to that. You don’t usually see that. Most of the time, you’re trying to hit the ball deep on their returns, but these girls were hitting angled balls that were a little bit more shallow. Then we started fighting fire with fire.”
The match at No. 1 singles between Parkland’s Lexie Warsing and Helena Lynn was nearing completion (3-6, 6-4, 5-4), as well as the No. 2 singles match between Parkland’s Sophie Elijovich and Stephanie Zheng (6-4, 2-6, 1-2) when their games were stopped since Parkland had already won the district title.
“At the end of the day, I knew that Stephanie would be able to put the pieces of the puzzle together, and she did, and she was showing that, even in the second set, when she was up 2-1, and it could’ve been 3-0. She was solid the whole match, so I do believe we would’ve been able to pull that one out,” Conrad said. “We really wanted this one, but being here is an honor, and to represent Liberty is an honor, so we’re really proud of what we did this year.”
Coaches Conrad and Hingston presented medals to their players, silver for Liberty and gold for Parkland, before the Trojans were handed the District 11 championship trophy.
“It’s special for a lot of reasons,” said Hingston, “one of which, it was not easy, and we had a very difficult semifinal match to get here. That was a 3-2 match (against Stroudsburg) and a 3-set match at one doubles. That match hung in the balance very similar to today, so it was very difficult to achieve this.”
Parkland will advance to the PIAA Class 3A state tournament scheduled to begin on Oct. 24.