Tennis falls short of team districts
Whitehall’s bid for a girls team tennis district playoff berth took a hit when they lost a tough match to Emmaus last week, a team that they were jockeying with for one of the final tournament spots.
With the 2-5 loss to the host Green Hornets, they enter the last week of regular season competition with a 6-7 record. While they still have a match remaining with Nazareth (12-2), they’ll now turn their attention to the District XI AAA Girls Singles Tournament which got underway Monday at Lehigh University.
In the singles tourney, both Natalia Pedraza and Noel Yacoub participated for the Zephyrs. Pedraza, the Zephyrs No. 1 player, drew Nazareth’s Jenn Soika, the eighth seed. Soika would go on to win 6-2, 6-0, while Yacoub, the Zephs No. 2, was matched against Bangor’s Gio Beltrano. While Beltrano won, Yacoub took her to three sets before falling 6-3, 5-7, 10-8.
Before that loss to Emmaus, the Zephyrs kept their district hopes alive with a spirited victory against Northampton. Head coach Alex Green characterized it as a great win.
He said that at some stretches during the match it didn’t look promising, and that was underscored by some cramping experienced by Yacoub in her match against Rose Sharga. At one point it appeared they would have to forfeit the match, but she wound up playing through it and won her match in two sets, defeating Sharga, 6-3, 6-2.
Natalia Pedraza also won, defeating Liz Hozza at No. 1 singles, 6-2, 6-1.
“She played great that match,” said Green.
They also got a victory at No. 3 doubles as Heylee Chan and Nicole Asmar continued to come through in the clutch, winning in three sets, 6-1, 6-7, 6-0. With the win, the tandem raised their record to 7-4 on the season.
“They’ve really had a good year,” said Green. “They were big in that match.”
The match was tied at 3-3, and it came down to who would prevail at No. 1 doubles. The tiebreaker match featured Pedraza and Yacoub, and they responded with a come-from-behind win, rallying from a 1-4 deficit in the first set to take both sets and ultimately the match with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“They weren’t playing really well early on, but they kind of flipped the switch and started dominating the match,” said Green. “It was really impressive.”
That made for one excited team, he said. And it also kept their hopes alive for a possible playoff berth.
But last Wednesday’s match against the Hornets proved to be a tough afternoon for the visiting Zephs. They won at No. 1 singles as Pedraza dominated Shannon Stewart, winning 6-3, 6-0. Their only other win came at No. 3 doubles as Chan and Asmar continue to steamroll along, winning 6-1, 6-1.
Pedraza displayed consistent shot-making ability against Stewart as she repeatedly challenged Stewart with deep volleys that carried a lot of pace. Stewart struggled to reach many of those balls, and Pedraza racked up a number of points off that fierce forehand.
Pedraza said that it was probably her second best outing of the season. She said that she was playing pretty consistent tennis, and when she’s hitting balls with pace, and they’re staying inbounds, good things happen.
“I was playing pretty well today,” said Pedraza.
She said that she’s able to adapt to whatever she needs to do to return the ball. If that means staying back, or attacking the net, she’ll just react to the flow of the game.
Pedraza’s win raised her personal record to 7-6. She said that there’s always room for improvement.
“I want to have a winning season,” said Pedraza.
She’s made strides since last season where she found herself thrown into No. 1 singles.
“It was a lot of pressure, and work, and scary,” said Pedraza. “This year I think I’m a lot more comfortable, and I know what to expect. I’m more prepared.”
Pedraza also has a better grasp regarding her EPC counterparts at No. 1 singles. A lot of them are the same from last season, and she said it can work as both an advantage and a disadvantage.
“The girls that I played twice, both this year and last year, and I lost to, I know what to expect,” said Pedraza. “I’m not as scared. That’s an advantage, but it’s a disadvantage knowing that you lost to them before, and it takes a toll on your mental game.”