By Nick Curcuru
---- — NEWTON — Wednesday’s Division 3 State Semifinal girls tennis tilt between Manchester Essex and Cohasset was a highly anticipated one.
Both teams sport a lineup filled with marquee players and the North sectional champion Hornets and the South sectional champion Skippers each entered the match, with a spot in the Division 3 State title game on the line, unbeaten.
As it turned out, this match lived up to the hype.
The two powerhouse programs traded great shot after great shot, two matches went to a third set and in the end it was the Hornets that came away with a well earned 3-2 victory at Newton South High School. Manchester Essex (21-0) now moves on to the Division 3 State Championship on Friday at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury (3:30 p.m.) where it will face Division 3 West champion Monument Mountain, who took down Central champ Sutton in its state semifinal matchup.
The Hornets will be looking for their second Division 3 State Title in three years as they last took home the crown in 2011.
“We knew we had our hands full from the start, that was a tough tough match,” Hornets head coach Phil Logsdon said. “There were a lot of deuces and a lot of long points but the girls fought so hard to pull it out, I am so proud of them.”
For the second match in a row it was the No. 1 doubles tandem of junior captain Rachel Daley and seventh grader Chanel Bullock that picked up the match clinching point for the Hornets.
With the other four matches already in the books and the score tied 2-2 it was up to Daley and Bullock to take the third set against a game Meredith Spofford and Kate Sookiasian of Cohasset.
Daley and Bullock took the first set 6-2 but a determined Spofford and Sookiasian bounced back to take the second 7-5. It was in the match deciding third set where the Hornets tandem turned up their game.
Daley and Bullock took the first game to get some confidence going and opened up a 5-2 lead in the deciding set before holding off one last push from their opponents to win the deciding set 6-4 and clinch the victory for Manchester Essex.
“(When we got the deciding) point it was such an exciting feeling,” Bullock said. “It was such a tough match.”
“When they came back in the second set I said to Chanel, ‘Lets do this, it’s our time to shine,’” said Daley, who was along with partner Eliza Rohner won the state title clinching match in the 2011 state finals. “It was awesome that we were able to work together to get the win. There was a lot of team work and we picked up the aggression in the third set.”
Junior captain Michelle Fuca picked up the first points of the match with a straight set win at No. 2 singles (6-1, 6-0). But Cohasset quickly answered back with Emma Davis picking up a straight set win at No. 1 singles over Brittany Collens (6-1, 6-1). Davis, the Division 3 South Sectional Individual Champion, handed Collens, a Division 3 North Individual finalist, her first loss in team play this season.
Manchester Essex would get on the board next with a big point from Kendall McCormick at No. 3 singles. McCormick topped Cohasset’s Sara Corry in straight sets (6-2, 6-4) but it was anything but easy as the two traded several long volleys and tightly contested games. In the end it was McCormick’s patience and shot placement that was the difference.
With a 2-1 lead and both doubles tandems still playing, Logsdon knew his time would pull out the win.
“When Kendall won at No. 3 singles I knew we had it,” Logsdon said. “There was still two matches to be played but I knew one of our doubles teams would pull it out. I am very confident in them.”
Cohasset’s Gabrielle Lemoine and Brianna Crough tied the score at 2-2 with a win at No. 2 doubles topping Molly Carlson and Maura McCormick after dropping the first set of the match (2-6, 6-4, 6-4).
But Daley and Bullock were there to pick up the deciding point at No. 1 doubles to send the Hornets to the state finals and a meeting with Monument Mountain.