Bulldogs Earn Return Trip to Elite 8

            Neva Matos and Macy Ingham have proven to be capable problem solvers for the Old Rochester Regional High School girls’ tennis team, and their performances in Tuesday’s 5-0, Round of 16 sweep of Danvers in the MIAA Division 3 state tournament provided a telling example.

            The opening set at first singles firmly in her pocket at 6-3, Matos’ serve was broken early in the second set, and she trailed Madison Savage, 2-0.

            “I was just trying to stay positive because, when I get negative, then my play starts to go downhill,” said Matos, a 16-year-old from Rochester finishing her sophomore year. “And I was trying to keep it away from her forehand because, when I did hit it to her forehand, she usually was able to put it away. So I think just maintaining longer rallies instead of myself going for winners.”

            Matos won the first set handily, but Savage came up with some dandy, crosscourt, running forehands, including one off a dead ball with a tricky breeze at her back. Resolute, Danvers’ best player did not hesitate, driving the ball with topspin into the deuce corner of the court.

            Determined not to match power with power, Matos exhibited her version of solid control when, in the second set, she had pushed Savage off the court and, with a defensive lob hanging up against the breeze, made the overhead without overhitting the ball.

            Point to ORR and, eventually, game, set, match and a trip back to the state quarterfinals, where last year the Bulldogs met their match in a 3-2 decision against Dover-Sherborn. This time around, seventh-seeded ORR (18-0) is that much more seasoned, the next round of competition notwithstanding.

            “I think my goal was to make it to the top eight again in playoffs,” said ORR Coach Kyle Noseworthy, whose team will travel to challenge second-seeded Newburyport (16-3) in the quarterfinals (date/time not yet announced at press time). Newburyport also shut out its Round of 16 opponent (North Reading) on Tuesday.

            “Obviously, we went undefeated again in the (regular) season, which was awesome. (We) didn’t plan for it, but we had two big matches against Bishop Stang. If you have a rival, that’s our rival. Last year we lost to them both times; this year we flipped both those matches,” said Noseworthy. “I said I wanted to make it at least as far as last year. … The nice thing is our team can compete. Doesn’t matter who you go against, you can always compete, and it’s not a sport where you need everyone to be perfect. Some people might have an off day, but all you need is three of them to have a good day and you can find a win.”

            ORR found a winner on all five courts on Tuesday.

            Ingham, playing on the second court against Sophie Sanidas, was up 6-4, 3-0, when the two had a game that last several minutes. As a result, Matos’ second-set surge made hers the clinching point. But Ingham also fended off Sanidas’ push and moments after the clinching point, turned a competitive situation into a 6-0 set and a convincing victory that left only the first doubles teams on court.

            Danvers got closest to a point at first doubles, where ORR’s Liz Houdelette and Mari Sudofsky were solid when it mattered and won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, over Raina Langlais and Ava Nadeau.

            “With tennis, you never know because anything can flip at any time. All you need is a few points of momentum, and then you can flip a set very quickly,” said Noseworthy. “I think we were down in first singles, second singles and first ‘dubs’ in the first set at a point in time.

            “That’s the thing with tennis, you get this can awkward feeling-out at the beginning of every set. You feel out what’s changed, you feel out what’s new or you feel out the new strategy. And then things can change on a dime, but luckily they figured it out, they learned how to work with their opponents on some weaknesses and use their strengths to take over.”

            ORR’s second doubles team of Delaney Chase and Caroline Houdelette was first off court with a business-like, 6-0, 6-2 victory over Claire Lyman and Molly Verhoosky.

            At third singles, ORR’s Emily Wyman did not yield a game, winning 6-0, 6-0 against Cali Coffin.

MIAA Girls Tennis Tournament

By Mick Colageo

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