Notre Dame's Meredith Smietanski, right, joins her team after the squad defeated Central Catholic for a fourth straight trip to the final four.
After three straight years of her team pulling off upsets to advance to the state final four, Notre Dame Academy tennis coach Kim Pacella wondered Tuesday whether it was time for her to experience what it feels like to be knocked off as a favorite.
"I was nervous that, because of the upsets the last three years, it would turn on us," Pacella said.
Her worries came to a halt when her second doubles team secured NDA's third win to beat Central Catholic, 3-0, in the Division I northwest final of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament played indoors at Shadow Valley because of the rain. With the win, the Eagles advanced to the state final four for the fourth year in a row and will play No. 1 ranked Dublin Jerome on Sunday morning at Hilliard Davidson.
When the team of Abby Born and Jordan Cady finished off the Irish's Kaitlyn Dominiak and Hannah Hendricks, 6-1, 6-2, the Eagles flooded their court in celebration. NDA had already won at No. 2 and No. 3 singles, as Kerigan McNamara and Nina Eid, respectively, surrendered just one game a piece.
Matches at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles ended prematurely because of the insurmountable lead.
"I'm so excited because we always come in as the underdog and we fight until the end," said senior Meredith Smietanski, who led 7-5, 3-2 at No. 1 doubles with partner Lindsay Clark. "It's a huge team effort."
Two NDA players will compete in two state tournaments this weekend. Sisters Teagan and Kerigan McNamara qualified for the OHSAA doubles tournament by finishing second at districts and will face a duo from Chagrin Falls Kenston on Friday morning at Ohio State. CC's Sydney Delp will make her fourth appearance at the state tournament, and first in singles.
Delp and freshman Teagan McNamara were called off the court Tuesday just two games into their No. 1 singles match.
Of NDA's four matches so far in the tournament, the toughest came right off the bat in a 4-1 win over St. Ursula. The winner of that match figured to be a strong favorite to emerge as the area's representative in the final four.
"We knew if we could get past St. Ursula things would get easier," said Smietanski, who will make her fourth trip to the final four. "They'd still be hard, but they'd get easier until the end."
After qualifying for state the past three years in doubles alongside her sister Morgan Delp, Sydney will make her debut in singles Friday against New Albany's Cristina DiLorenzo.
"I really wanted our team to go, that would have been really awesome," Delp said. "I'm still super proud of everything that we've accomplished."
Like the Delps in recent years, the McNamara sisters teamed up for the postseason after playing singles. A familiarity will one another helps lessen any disadvantage against opponents who have played many matches together.
"We're pretty tight, so that helps out," Teagan said.
As for the OTCA tournament, Kerigan hopes the Eagles avoid getting a fourth place medal for the fourth straight year. Pacella said her team needs to "believe they belong there."
"There's a lot of really good teams," Kerigan said. "Hopefully [we finish] third, maybe second -- better than what we've done in the past would be nice."
Contact Ryan Autullo at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6160 or on Twitter @RyanAutullo.
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