The Althoff Crusaders ability to hit big shots and win the important points was on full display on Thursday at the Althoff High School tennis courts.
Althoff sophomores Olivia Melichar and Mary Nester each won third set tiebreakers in singles then overcame Belleville West freshmen Grace Bauer and Taylor Fiedler in a third set tiebreaker in the No. 2 doubles flight as the Crusaders blanked the Maroons 9-0 in a non-conference girls tennis match.
Featuring the top lineup in the South Seven Conference, Althoff (5-3) got a pair of straight set wins from its top two players — seniors Emma Melichar and Madelyn Skinner. But Belleville West, featuring three freshmen and sophomore among its top six players, gave the Crusaders a run for their money in the other four singles matches.
Even a 6-1, 6-4 win by Jordyn Roper over sophomore Natalie Soehnlin went down to the wire in the second set.
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“I know we won 9-0 but this match was much closer than the final score indicates. If we lost the three tiebreakers in singles, its 3-3 going into doubles and maybe changes the entire complexion of the match,” first-year Althoff coach Brian Zaron said. “I think maybe we have a little more experience in the varsity lineup and that may have played a part in us winning tonight. I’m happy with the girls on this team. They played the big points well tonight and we were able to come away with a win.”
Both four-year starters, Emma Melichar and Skinner ere impressive in winning in singles and doubles. Melichar defeated Madison Kokotovich 6-0, 6-0 in the No. 1 singles match, while Skinner won over Jillian Rosenkranz 6-2, 6-2 in the No. 2 singles match. Melichar and Skinner also combined to defeat Kokotovich and Rosenkranz in the No. 1 doubles match.
Zaron , a graduate of Belleville West, said his top two players continued to play like they have all year.
“Emma (Melichar) has just had a great year of playing No. 1 singles for us. Even the matches she lost, she has played solid tennis. Madelyn (Skinner) has a rather different style but it works for her. It’s great to have two players of that level at the top of our lineup,” Zaron said. “But I was also impressed by Belleville West. Their girls played very well and I thought both teams showed great respect and sportsmanship for each other tonight. It was an excellent night of tennis.”
Also winning a third set tiebreaker for Althoff was Lauren Borik who defeated Kaitlyn Fielder 4-6, 6-3 10-4 in the No. 5 singles match.
Maroons fall short
Borik and Roper completed the shutout by winning the No. 3 doubles flight — 8-1 over Kaitlyn Fielder and Delaney Foster. But Maroons coach Jenny Mennerick wasn’t disappointed by the loss. Mennerick, a former O’Fallon High School standout, knows how close the match could have been.
“We lost the match 9-0, but if we win the three matches in singles that we lost in tiebreakers, it might have been a different outcome. The score doesn’t show t, but this was a close match,” Mennerick said. “Honestly, I think a lot of what happened was that Althoff has girls who have played varsity tennis for a couple of years in some cases and we have girls who either played junior-varsity last year or are freshmen. It makes a difference.
“But these are great girls on this team. We’re getting better each day and its it’s going to be so much fun watching these young players continue to improve over the next couple of years.”