The Mount Loses Talent But Keeps Winning Titles

Posted: October 15, 1999

Five of the eight players from last year's championship squad graduated in the spring, so Harvey Fleegler, Mount St. Joseph's first-year coach, wasn't sure his Chiefs would be able to win their 10th consecutive Athletic Association of Catholic Academies tennis title.

Well, the Chiefs put his fears to rest on Tuesday. The Mount lost at No. 1 singles but swept the remaining matches and downed Sacred Heart, 4-1, to take the regular-season crown.

The Mount must wait as St. Basil and Merion Mercy play off today for the right to meet the Chiefs Tuesday for the overall title. The wait should be worth it. St. Basil beat Merion Mercy, 3-2, on Tuesday, and the Mount has two wins over each team after finishing the regular season with a 10-0 record (10-3 overall).

``They'll have to play again [today],'' Fleegler said of his two possible opponents. ``So whoever comes out of that is going to play us for a third time - who we've already beaten twice. It's sort of anticlimactic, as far as I'm concerned. We'll fare well against them, barring injuries or anybody's sick.''

Fleegler wasn't just bragging. He has the results to back him up, including 3-2 and 4-1 victories over St. Basil. He also has Katri Walsh, Annie Longon, Liz Rymar, Marisa Schaffer, Christine MacMaster, Allison Cohen, and Jenna Vaccaro to back him up.

``Katri's had a great year, and she'll be back next year,'' Fleegler said.

Hanging in there. The match of the season in the Suburban One League American Conference Freedom Division, between Upper Dublin and Wissahickon, was as competitive as expected. The winning margin was larger than expected, however, due mainly to the tenaciousness of the Trojans.

The Cardinals won at No. 3 singles and No. 3 doubles, but Wissahickon took the rest and won, 5-2, on Monday.

It wasn't a case of superior talent winning out, just of a team hanging in there long enough to win.

The last three matches were the first and second singles and No. 2 doubles, and the Trojans (15-1 overall, 10-0 Freedom) had to have them. At No. 1 singles, Sylvia Park downed Julie Hackenbracht, who was playing with a stress fracture, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2. At No. 2 singles, in which Upper Dublin's Jen Mansh was playing with a sprained ankle, Julie Stimmler grabbed a tough 6-0, 4-6, 6-1 victory. At No. 2 doubles, Jenna Hilton and Ali Leavitt edged Tori Katz and Ashley Valentine with a pair of tiebreakers, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5).

``The match that I was really shocked how we really battled back was second doubles,'' Trojans coach Mark Daniels said. ``We were actually down, 2-5, there in the second [set], and my girls just hung tough in there. It's not that they really raised the level of their game a lot; they just hung in there and the other girls started making a lot of unforced errors.

``So we gradually sneaked back into the match. We won it in a tiebreaker, 9-7, and in fact took the third set in another tiebreaker. That was just basic mental toughness, nothing else.''

All the difference. Abington Friends muddled through the first matches of the season, but the Kangaroos are starting to make some noise.

After beating Jenkintown, 4-1, in a nonleague match Tuesday, Abington Friends improved to 4-6 (2-1 in the Friends Schools League) and is riding a three-match winning streak.

Freshman Carly Solis-Cohen won her third consecutive match at No. 3 singles to match her team's streak. She is 6-4. Then there's Ryan Joseph-Smerilson, who plays at No. 1 singles. On Tuesday, she lost to undefeated Jackie Carleton of Jenkintown - who repeated yesterday as District 1 Class AA champion - but the transfer student from Florida has been the spark the Kangaroos needed.

``Ryan came to the team a little bit later,'' coach Christine Long said. ``She missed the preseason, so we had to hold her out for a couple of matches. She's only lost twice, so she's 4-2 otherwise, and I think she really makes the difference at [No. 1].

``Once she got in and got settled, I think she's really helped the whole team. That's the big difference.''

Long is optimistic that the team's success can continue.

``I'm looking forward to it,'' she said. ``We only have two more Friends League matches, so I'm hoping we can have a winning season in the league.''

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