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Doubles team looks to keep advancing Doubles team looks to keep advancing

Doubles team looks to keep advancing

Thursday, October 25, 2018 by Steve andres Special to the Press in Sports

With the postseason in full swing, a couple of Whitehall tennis players are looking to extend their seasons as long as they can.

On a chilly Tuesday afternoon at Lehigh University’s tennis courts, Natalia Pedraza and Noel Yacoub began District XI AAA Girls Doubles Tournament competition. The two drew Dieruff’s Vivian Soto and Ashley Balbuena in the first round.

They advanced with a win over the Husky pair 6-0, 6-1, setting up a second round match against Northampton’s Liz Hozza and Rose Sharga. They defeated the Kid tandem 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. With the win, they advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinals against Nazareth’s Halle DeNardo and Jenn Soika.

“It was definitely a big win for them,” said head coach Alex Green. “They have made this their goal. They stayed extremely poised amid a lot of pressure and momentum swings.”

At one point they were down 5-2, but rallied back to eventually win the match.

Prior to the doubles tourney, Pedraza and Yacoub both appeared in the D-11 AAA Singles Tournament. Green said that Pedraza faced a tough first-round opponent in Nazareth’s Jenn Soika. Green said that Soika is one of the best No. 2 players in the area, and was seeded eighth in the tournament. She recently came in fourth during the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference tournament and had won 15 matches this season.

Pedraza lost in straight sets, but Green believes she’ll benefit from the experience as her game continues to evolve.

“Hopefully, the next couple of years she can get one of those top eight seeds to get a little bit better draw,” said Green.

He said that Pedraza keeps getting better, and has the shots in her arsenal that are needed to climb the ladder among the singles players in the EPC.

“She had a really good year, and everything that she’s done the last two years, she’s set up really well for her junior and senior year,” said Green.

Yacoub faced Bangor’s Gioia Beltrano in the first round. The match went to tiebreaker with Yacoub bouncing back to win the second set 7-5. She eventually lost 10-8 in what Green said was a tough loss for his talented No. 2 player.

Green said that the format for a singles match in district competition deviated from the regular season where they played the tiebreaker if the players were even after two sets. During the regular season they play a full third set, and then go to tiebreaker if necessary to decide a winner. He said that Yacoub fought hard to get back into the match, but with the tiebreaker now deciding the match, she couldn’t overtake Beltrano in that shortened set.

He said it was a big accomplishment for Yacoub to make the singles tourney.

“To qualify for this was big,” said Green. “Last year she just missed it by a game, one win away, so for her it was good to get into the singles tournament.”

Prior to the district tourney, they competed in the EPC tournament. That was held last week, and featured team, singles, and doubles competition. The Zephyrs had singles representation in Pedraza and Yacoub, while their doubles entries featured Emily Tran and Kate Peluso, and Heylee Chan and Nicole Asmar.

Pedraza had another tough draw in No. 1 singles and lost to Stroudsburg’s Sara Denny. The format in EPC singles competition is just one set. Green said that she played really well, but couldn’t recover from a slow start.

“She fought hard when she was behind, and that was a really good opening round match,” said Green.

Green said that he was happy about how she played and competed.

Yacoub won her first match, but lost to Freedom’s No. 2, Natalie Sinai, in the next round. Sinai later finished second in the tourney behind Bethlehem Catholic’s Belen Blasco.

Peluso and Tran won their opening match, while Chan and Asmar also won theirs at No. 3 doubles. Both teams were eliminated in the next pairing, ending Whitehall’s opportunity to getting into the championship round.

“All in all it was a good tournament,” said Green.