Lansing Catholic trailed by two points heading into its last three matches and needed to win all three to edge Portland 28-27 and earn a third straight Division 4 regional title.
The Cougars did just that on Thursday at the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility after the tournament was moved from Portland’s outdoor courts due to rain. Other matches took place at the Michigan Athletic Club.
The Division 3 regional scheduled to be played at Haslett was also moved indoors to Court One East and North but was unable to finish and will be completed with semifinals and finals starting at 10 a.m. today at Haslett’s outdoor courts.
“We played great matches at all three flights,” Portland coach Jim Niebling said. “We gave ourselves the best chance we could, but those are three good flights for Lansing Catholic. We didn’t lose it. They won it.”
Lansing Catholic junior Calla Ramont topped Raiders’ senior Katie Blake 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles, and the Cougars’ senior MaryBeth Maddalena and sophomore Nicole Jarwan defeated junior Tessa Palmiter and sophomore Peyton Lowery of Portland 6-1, 7-5 at No. 1 doubles.
In what turned out be the winner-take-all match, Lansing Catholic rallied to win the second doubles flight 7-5 in a tiebreaker. Portland seniors Annalise Pline and Lauren Manzini took a 3-2 lead and then a 6-5 advantage in the third set after winning the first set 7-6 (and 7-6 in a tiebreaker) and losing the second set 6-3.
But Cougar juniors Andrea Fischette and Rachel Knox earned four out of five points to force the deciding tiebreaker.
“We feed off each other, and we know when we’re down that we can get back up because we’ve done it a lot of times,” Knox said. “I tried to slow it down towards the end, because I knew if I got too worked up, that I would blow it.”
The tiebreaker was tied 4-4 before the Lansing Catholic duo earned three straight points to take the match and the regional title.
“We were tired and exhausted, but we knew if we played our hardest and used that last bit of energy, we could pull through,” Fischette said.
Niebling was proud of Pline and Manzini, who survived a three-set scare to top Lansing Christian sophomore Claire Granger and senior McKenzie Stock 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in a quarterfinal.
“When you lose a set to a team you’re expecting to beat, you lose your confidence pretty fast,” he said. “But little by little, we got their confidence restored. They got their composure. They fought hard all day long. Had they won that tiebreaker, they would be the heroes of the day. But Lansing Catholic did what they needed to do to win.”
Maddalena and Jarwan had to overcome 4-1 and 5-4 deficits in the third set to win at No. 1 doubles.
“I’m pretty confident in my serve, so I knew we could win that game,” Maddalena said. “Once we tied it 5-5, we had adrenaline going, had the opportunity for a shot, and we took it. But I credit Portland. They never gave up.”
Portland and Lansing Catholic tied 4-4 in a regular season dual match, but the Cougars tied for second place with Williamston behind Portland in the CAAC White tournament last week.
“I knew we had a chance, but I knew it was going to be tough,” Cougars coach Jim Joyce said. “Our team has had a ton of potential. Being able to pull through in the end makes me feel good as a coach and makes the girls feel good.”
Lansing Catholic may have benefitted when the tournament moved indoors.
“We have a lot of players who play at the MAC and play here (at the MSU Indoor Tennis Facility),” Joyce said, “So we’re kind of lucky we got to go indoors. I know a lot of other teams don’t have that opportunity.”
Sophomore Grace Mohr was the Cougars’ other flight champion at No. 4 singles.
Flight winners for Portland included juniors Lysie Eldridge at No. 2 singles and Chelsea Geiger at No. 3 singles, senior Hayley Bonn and freshman Michelle Dorshimer at No. 3 doubles, and freshman Brooke Butterfield and Morgan Wittkopp at No. 4 doubles.
DIVISION 3 AT HAS LETT: Williamston and the host Vikings are tied with 16 points each, and Parma Jackson County Western has 14 heading into today’s 10 a.m. semifinals and finals at Haslett’s outdoor courts.
“It’s going to be pretty close down the stretch,” Haslett coach Henry Brunnschweiler said, “probably one or two points.”