Depth, versatility power state ranked Blue Streaks
By Jim Horvath
At the beginning of the season, Magnificat tennis head coach Chris Johnson felt his team’s overall depth would go a long way in determining its success.
Has it ever.
Coming into Thursday’s big home match with Westlake, the Blue Streaks are 12-2 and ranked fifth in Division I in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association poll. Last week, the Blue Streaks rolled to three wins in defeating Akron Hoban 5-0, Chargrin Falls 4-1 and Shaker Heights 5-0.
“If we have somebody out sick or somebody’s hurt, which every team goes through, we don’t really miss a beat,” Johnson said prior to his team’s match with Chagrin Falls.
“We’ve got people ready to jump in there and take their spot of needed,” Johnson said. “As far as our versatility goes, we can mix people in at both doubles and singles. We can match up against other teams the way we want to.
“If a team is stronger at doubles, for example, I can put some of our stronger singles players in at one of those spots. We can go many different ways with our lineup, which is nice,” he added.
The Blue Streaks have also advanced to the final eight in the region in the OTCA Coaches Cup. That tournament run, along with a lot of the team’s success so far, has been due to the improvement of the singles players, Johnson said.
“Things have turned out better so far than I thought they would,” Johnson admitted. “At the Rocky River tournament, I was a little worried about my singles the way they finished. I knew my doubles were strong, and they showed it at River. But our singles have really improved a ton over the past couple of weeks. We’ve won a lot of matches because they’ve come through.
“We beat Kenston, Hudson and Hawken 4-1. I would have expected us to win 3-2, maybe, because those are some high quality teams. But winning 4-1 against them was a great accomplishment, and it was because of the improvement with our singles,” he said.
Against Chagrin Falls, for example, Emily Witt and Lauren O’Malley won their singles matches in the second and third spots. Annie Foliano and Sarah Patrick fought their way to a three-set win at first doubles, while Jessica Hollis and Abby Lawless took second doubles in a tough 6-3, 7-5 decision.
Witt has been the team’s No. 1 singles player most of the season, recording a record of 7-3 after her win against Shaker Heights. She’s also 4-0 at second singles. O’Mally spends most of her time at second singles and has a record of 6-4 there along with her 4-0 mark at third singles.
“I think Emily has really come along at singles,” Johnson said. “She started out not being able to compete with the big guns, but of late she’s really starting to challenge some of the better players out there.
“Lauren’s a freshman, and she’s a tiny girl. She’s got a big heart, though, and she’s played unbelievable tennis for us this year. Between those two players, they’ve really jump-started our singles spots. That’s helped us win all of those big matches,” he said.
Maddie Lugli has spent most of her time at singles, going 6-4 at third singles and 2-0 in the second spot. Kelly Plagens, who plays mostly first doubles for the Blue Streaks, has played seven matches at first singles, further demonstrating the team’s versatility. When paired with Foliano at first doubles, she’s 5-1 on the season.
Foliano and Patrick make up Magnificat’s most productive first doubles team, going 7-0 so far in 2011. At second doubles, Hollis and Lawless have dominated, going 9-1.
Now it’s time to prepare for the upcoming Coaches Cup matches, along with the OHSAA Tournament.
“I have seniors on the team who have been through it before, along with some girls who’ve had older sisters on the team,” Johnson said. “They know what the goal is, and they know they have to be ready
“They get up for the big matches. We’ve had some lapses at times during the season, but for the most part we’ve been ready to go. We go on a week to week basis, and that’s worked out pretty well for us,” he added.