Derry tennis team records historic season
The Derry girls tennis team's playoff run came to a close earlier this month in the WPIAL Class AA quarterfinals when the Trojans fell, 5-0, to defending state champion Sewickley Academy, the tournament's top seed and eventual WPIAL runner-up to Quaker Valley.
Despite the loss, the Trojans made history in a season that ended 11-7 overall and 10-2 in Section 1-AA. The first time Derry appeared in the quarterfinals was in 2010 when they lost to South Park, 3-2.
“We wanted to go further in the playoffs and extend our season,” senior Breana Liberoni said. “When we got to Sewickley Academy, it was like a wall. We stayed determined and focused as long as we could. We made it to the playoffs and that was our goal.”
Coach Tom Tatone was impressed with his team's play against Sewickley Academy.
“I was impressed with our ability to lengthen rallies and extend games the way we did,” Tatone said. “There is no doubt they left it all on the court.”
No. 1 singles player Felicia Pawlik got a rematch with Samantha Gohh, who she lost to in the first round of the WPIAL Class AA singles tournament. Last off the court, Pawlik took the match to deuce five times before falling 6-2, 6-2.
“When you play a team like that there is always a ball that is going to come back to you,” Tatone said. “They didn't shy away from it. I was really proud of them.”
This year the Trojans defeated Vincentian, 3-1, in the first round — Vincentian defeated Derry, 3-2, in the first round in 2009.
Laura Kowalik recorded the first home playoff win for Derry at No. 3 singles by defeating Sylvia Ciocca, 6-3, 6-0. Pawlik's loss at No. 1 singles tied the match 1-1, putting pressure on Liberoni in third singles and the doubles teams, which proved to be no problem.
Derry fought hard and remained undefeated in section until facing off with Greensburg Central Catholic for the second time. Tied for first place, Derry had to win its last two matches. The Trojans lost 3-2 to Mt. Pleasant in a match that lasted so long they were forced to put the lights on. They also fell to GCC, 4-1.
Regardless, the runner-up finish was an accomplishment for the Trojans.
“Our determination helped us,” senior Rachel Henderson said. “We know that teams that have beat us in the past are good, but we know we can beat them. We have a better skill set. We believed it. We never gave up.”
Finishing second and losing in the quarterfinals was bittersweet for the Trojans who will lose seven seniors this year, including five starters.
“Now that the season is over we are all stepping back and realizing how much history we made,” Liberoni said. “We didn't realize that during our season. We kept going because we wanted to do as much as we could. Now, we are actually realizing how much we did for the school and the tennis team.”
Brittany Goncar is a freelance writer.