St. John Vianney’s top three singles players helped the Lancers pull off a first-round upset in the Shore Conference Tournament.
“We knew coming in we were going to have a hard time with doubles,” said the 10th-seeded Lancers’ coach Bob O’Connor, “especially with our regular first doubles player Helena Coppola’s injury. So our singles players had to step up, and they certainly did that.”
Megan Giaimo, led the way toward her team’s 3-2 win over the No. 7 seeded Knights with a series of strong play on the wind-riddled first singles court, setting the tone for her team by capturing the match from Artemis Tapliga in straight sets by scores of 6-0 and 6-4, showcasing her developing power game and ball control on both halves of the cross section.
“Megan had beaten Tapliga in the Monmouth County Tournament on Saturday,” said O’Connor of his impressive freshman, “and I think that gave her a lot of confidence coming into today’s match.”
St. John Vianney also received an integral win from its senior captain, and four-year varsity starter, Michelle Colluci whose hard fought 6-3, 6-4 win over Emily Maier kept the Lancer’s hopes of a singles play sweep alive.
“Michelle’s the player with our most experience,” explained O’Connor. “She gutted it out, played a long match through some pain and really came through for us.”
Early victories, as nice as they may be, mean little without that decisive third tally, a final notch in the belt carved out by the Lancer’s fiery finesse specialist Katie McAlick.
With all previous meetings concluded and the overall score knotted at two, all eyes were on the junior, who played a three-set match with fellow third singles competitor Samantha Hulse. The duo were forced to weather the creeping shadows of dusk and it’s associated sporadic wind gusts.
The cruel conditions both aided McAlick’s impressive finesse game, knocking forehand slices and backhanded drops out of the sky and puzzled the junior after swapping baselines, carrying her arching attempts for the back chalk long … a frustrating occurrence when coupled with Hulse’s defensive style of play.
“We’ve all dealt with wind before,” McAlick said. “But nothing like this. We were right on the water today and had to make a lot of adjustments. The balls you would normally hit were not staying in so you couldn’t just rip it.”
“It was a different environment and made for huge challenge, especially when you’re playing against a team like Wall who has so many talented players.”
A challenge met and overcome by McAlick who boarded this roller coaster ride of emotions, both light-hearted (when verbally poked and prodded by her teammates to smile after a cross court winner) and composure disrupting, and rode it to a 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 match-clinching performance.
For St. John Vianney’s efforts the Lancers will take to the road again on Friday, Sept. 28 to play the winner of a first-round meeting between second-seeded Rumson-Fair Haven and No. 15 Jackson Memorial.