By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The girls’ tennis team is headed back to the Division 3 North finals for the second straight year.
The number one ranked Pioneers clinched their North sectional finals berth after defeating fifth seeded Manchester-Essex in the Division 3 North semifinals on Monday, June 8, at Lynnfield High School.
“It’s nice going to the finals again,” said Pioneers head coach Craig Stone. “As I tell the kids all the time, you have to play within yourself and you have to stay focused. We did that and we have to continue to do that.”
The Pioneers will be facing either third seed North Reading or seventh seed Austin Prep in their 23rd North Sectional Final appearance over the past 35 years. The Hornets and Cougars competed in their semifinals contest on Wednesday, June 10, taking place after deadline.
“The potential of playing North Reading is exciting,” said Stone.
Lynnfield controlled the match from start to finish despite windy conditions. The semifinals match was the third time the Pioneers had defeated the Hornets this season.
Sophomore Sarah Mezini defeated first singles opponent Chanel Bullock in two sets, 6-1, 6-4.
“Sarah came out like gangbusters,” said Stone. “Chanel got a little more comfortable in the beginning of second set but Sarah is a trooper and she hung in there. She settled down mentally and she won six out of the last seven games. It was very impressive.”
Senior captain Kelley Nevils defeated second singles opponent Elizabeth Girian in two sets, 6-1, 6-2.
“Kelley was just methodical out there,” said Stone. “When they played the first time, they split sets and went to a super tiebreaker. She committed very few unforced errors.”
Senior captain Izzy Figucia dispatched third singles opponent Sally Polver in two sets, 6-1, 6-1.
“Izzy has been a consistent performer year long,” said Stone. “I call her my backboard. If you are going to beat her, you have to out hit her or take her out of her game. She’s mentally pretty tough and I think that is a combination of more experience this year and maturity. She has been a big part of our success this year.”
The second doubles team of sophomores Camie Foley and Katie Nugent defeated their counterparts Christina Bullock and August Kahle in two sets, 6-3, 7-6.
“They both volley well at the net, they serve well and they get along well,” said Stone. “The important thing with doubles is the compatibility factor. If you are not comfortable with your partner, you are not going to play well on the court.”
The first doubles team of junior Olivia Skelley and sophomore Katie Nevils were the final Pioneers to take the court when the match was already decided. After winning the first set 6-4 against counterparts Marina McGuire and Bridget Miller, the second set was tied 2-2. Skelley and Katie Nevils won the next four games to secure a 6-2 second set victory.
“It’s tough playing a second round match knowing your team has already won and the playing conditions (gusts) were not exactly ideal,” said Stone.
Stone praised his squad’s performance after defeating Manchester-Essex.
“Manchester-Essex has historically been a 3-2 battle and whenever I go into a Manchester match, I am always thinking get three, get three, get three,” said Stone. “They are young but they have experience and potential. We played them a couple of times this year and they were tight matches. I knew they had three-point potential but we were playing at home. I am just fortunate we are not a three-point team. We can score from first singles to second doubles.”
Tournament bracket updates can be found at www.miaa.net.