WESTFIELD TWP. — The Cloverleaf girls tennis team recorded a thrilling 3-2 victory over Norton on Thursday.
Now all the Colts have to do to win their first Portage Trail Conference title — or first girls tennis title in any league, for that matter — is beat the Panthers at the postseason tournament.
Cloverleaf (13-2, 13-1), which got clutch victories from third singles player Annacia Dienes, the first doubles team of Reilly Gold and Taylor Matheny and the No. 2 pairing of Bella Simmons and KK Barczyk, tied three-time defending overall champion Norton in the regular season.
The Colts and Panthers are clearly the class of the league, meaning whoever wins the tournament Wednesday at Ravenna will take home the overall PTC crown. Cloverleaf, which split regular-season meetings with Norton in 2015 and ’16, has not won the PTC Tournament in three previous years in the league.
“If they play like they did today, I think we’ve got a shot,” 15th-year coach Brenda Hewit said. “It helps that we’ve got quite a few (positions) that will be No. 1 seeds.”
The match was tied 2-2 with Simmons and Barczyk, who lost in their first meeting with Norton, still on the court. The duo rallied to beat Alexis Baker and Taylor Casey 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
“Oh, my gosh, it was exciting,” Hewit said. “I’m very thrilled and very excited for the girls. They wanted revenge.”
Equally clutch was Dienes, who also lost in her first meeting with Norton, that coming with the match hanging in the balance. Dienes beat Klara Tomic 6-2, 6-3.
“Annacia came out on fire,” Hewit said.
For Dienes, the victory was sweet revenge.
“The first match was very discouraging,” the senior said. “Today, being on our home court and playing as hard as I could, it feels amazing.”
Gold and Matheny duplicated their earlier win vs. Norton, improving to 14-1 on the season and 14-0 in the PTC with a convincing 6-1, 6-4 victory over Kristin Baker and Emma Clark.
Cloverleaf first singles player Nikki Vargo, who beat Taylor Storad in their initial meeting, fell 6-2, 7-5 this time around and suffered her first loss of the season against 14 victories.
Colts No. 2 singles player Grace Donnelly lost to Spencer Clark for the second time in 2018, falling 6-0, 6-4, but Cloverleaf players now know they are capable of taking down the Panthers in the league tournament.
“If we play as great as we did today and just keep practicing and always think that it’s not over till it’s over, I think we can go out first in the PTC,” Dienes said. “Since it’s my senior year, it would feel amazing that I had my last tennis season be the one where we finally won the PTC.”
Cloverleaf 3, Norton 2
Singles: Taylor Storad (N) def. Nikki Vargo, 6-2, 7-5; Spencer Clark (N) def. Grace Donnelly, 6-0, 6-4; Annacia Dienes (C) def. Klara Tomic, 6-2, 6-3. Doubles: Reilly Gold/Taylor Matheny (C) def. Kristin Baker/Emma Clark, 6-1, 6-4; Bella Simmons/KK Barczyk (C) def. Alexis Baker/Taylor Casey, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4. Records: Norton (13-1 in PTC), Cloverleaf (13-2, 13-1).