Needing a win over Classical to take over first place in Division II-B, the Toll Gate girls’ tennis team had its opportunities on Thursday.
But the Purple always kept the Titans at an arm’s length, getting three three-set wins to eventually pull away and win 5-2.
Toll Gate dropped to 8-2 in II-B, while Classical improved to 9-1. The Titans are now in a tie for second place in their subdivision with Narragansett. In all of D-II, Toll Gate and Narragansett are tied with the third-best mark.
Portsmouth, which plays in D-II-A, is in first place at 10-0.
“I don’t think we played as well as we played in other matches,” Toll Gate head coach Gary Gorman said. “I knew going in it would be a close match. We had a couple of heartbreaking losses.”
Classical jumped out to a 1-0 lead when Jessica Spindell defeated Caroline Waggoner 6-4, 6-3 at No. 4 singles, but Toll Gate tied the score soon after when Arianna Rizzo beat Ali Krekorian 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
From there, Schuyler Teneyck fell 6-4, 6-1 to Lilika Negishi at No. 2 singles, putting Classical back on top.
At No. 1 singles, Toll Gate’s Mackenzie Kelly took the first set 6-4 over Sachie Springwater, before Springwater won the second set 6-2. That set up a tight third set, where Kelly led 5-4. But Springwater rallied, winning the final three games to take the set 7-5 and put Classical up 3-1.
“That was a flip of the coin there,” Gorman said. “It could have gone either way.”
The Purple didn’t take very long too clinch the match, as Jackie Gomes and Maggie Metnick battled back from losing the first set against Jen Schaad and Chloe Underwood at No. 1 doubles to take the next two and finish the job.
“We should have won that one, in my view,” Gorman said.
With the match already decided, Toll Gate still fought, grabbing a point at No. 3 doubles when Leona Chau and Ann-Rose Pearson beat Hannah Leheny and Diba Bijari 6-4, 3-6, 10-7.
In the final doubles match – No. 2 –Toll Gate’s team of Jackie Falso and Rachel Deschenes won the first set 6-1 over Classical’s Bianca Donadio and Katerine Issa, but lost the second set 6-3. With the sun setting, the teams played a super tiebreak instead of a third set, and Classical pulled it out 10-7.
That made the final score 5-2, but if only a few points had gone differently it would have been Toll Gate that came away with the victory.
And there were lessons to be learned.
“They need to stay focused after wining the first set,” Gorman said on Monday. “They get in a little lull or something. That’s why we’re practicing today, on tactics and doubles strategy. A lot of those matches are definitely a flip of the coin.”
The Titans could end up seeing the Purple down the road in the postseason.
“Hopefully we get to meet them again in playoffs and hopefully the result is different,” Gorman said.
Toll Gate now has two matches remaining in the regular season, before the playoffs begin next week. First, it will take on Middletown today at home at 3:30 p.m.
Then, on Thursday, the Titans will host Narragansett in a likely battle for the No. 3 seed in D-II. That match will also be at 3:30 p.m., and it will be Senior Day, where Toll Gate will honor its four seniors – Chau, Deschenes, Allison Dickson and Underwood.
Later this week, Toll Gate will send some of its girls to the individual state tournament. Kelly will be playing singles, while teams of Waggoner and Underwood and Deschenes and Falso will be competing in the doubles tournament.