Strong singles play nets Copley a win
By Mike D’Agruma
COPLEY — Two heads are not better than one — if you’re the Copley High School tennis team.
As their doubles teams faltered, the Lady Indians (7-5) were forced to rely on three singles match wins to score a 3-2 home win over the Wadsworth High School Lady Grizzlies (4-6) Sept. 11.
Copley Head Coach Andrea Minster said the strength of her team lies in its singles play and her Nos. 1, 2 and 3 players: freshman Jessica Wharton, senior Ebony Hodges and sophomore Annie Horning, respectively. They proved her right with what seemed to be routine straight set victories: Wharton with 6-1, 6-0; Hodges with 6-2, 6-4; and Horning with 6-1, 6-2.
Wharton got the ball rolling in a dominating 6-1, 6-0 win that saw her go on a 12-game tear after dropping her first. She used blistering serve after blistering serve and a strong, accurate forehand to blast crosscourt and line shots that kept Wadsworth’s Abbey Hackenberg guessing all through the match.
Hackenberg made things a little easy for Wharton by hugging the baseline and staying stationary for most of the match. She tried to rely on an equally strong forehand to score points but rarely moved enough to adequately utilize it.
“That was one of the first things I noticed, and I tried to take advantage of that as much as I could,” Wharton said of Hackenberg’s lack of mobility.
Another difference maker in the match was Wharton’s confidence in her serve. While Hackenberg would lob a serve into play after a fault, Wharton would continue to send strong serves on her second, which led to a number of unforced errors on Hackenberg’s part. Hackenberg also missed a number of her first serves, which led to the aforementioned weaker serves that Wharton jumped on for easy points.
Playing at a high level is nothing new to Wharton. Minster said the freshman is a seasoned player who has held the No. 1 ranking for players ages 14 and under in Northeast Ohio since before joining the Lady Indians.
“As a coach, it’s great,” Minster said. “I don’t have to say a whole lot to her during the matches. [Her teammates] look to her for a victory, and she shoulders a lot, which is good.”
The Lady Indians doubles teams looked as though they could use some of Wharton’s seasoning as some sloppy play paved the way for two Wadsworth doubles match wins. The Lady Grizzlies No. 1 tandem of Caity Todd and Jill Moskowitz jumped all over Copley’s Kristin Sage and Siri Hiremath by forcing a number of mistakes at the net and on the lines. Moskowitz was lights out around the net, putting away point after point while catching Copley flat-footed and immobile. The Wadsworth duo also won the battle of the intangibles, bringing a level of intensity and communication to the court that the Lady Indians simply couldn’t match.
“You just got to play to their disabilities — you got to play your best,” Todd said. “We know each other and we know what we have to do to get it done.”
Even though Todd’s serve was off for most of the match, she more than made up for it with her baseline play, making heady saves and using a strong forehand to find gaps for points. If Sage and Hiremath managed to score a point, it was usually the result of Todd or Moskowitz mishitting a routine volley, which didn’t happen very often.
“I think once we got our volleys on and we stepped to our volleys, it just helped us because we took out their ground strokes and we just volleyed it,” Todd said.
Copley’s No. 2 doubles, Emily Hoffman and Lindsay Ison, managed to play Wadsworth’s Amy Messer and Jess Ellebruch with more energy in a 4-6, 7-5, 2-6 loss, but were unable to finish an uphill climb in the third set after falling behind 4-0.
The Lady Indians will head to Medina High School Sept. 16 for the Suburban League Tournament. Matches are set to begin at 8:30 a.m.
Copley High School freshman Jessica Wharton, the Lady Indians’ No. 1 singles player, rips a serve during a 6-1, 6-0 straight set win over Abbey Hackenberg, of Wadsworth High School, Sept. 11. Photo: Mike D’Agruma