Prep tennis roundup: Hart’s playoff picture grows brighter with win over Saugus

Hart's Sarah Backer gets set to serve the ball during her singles match against Saugus at Saugus High School. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal

With West Ranch and Valencia perched atop the Foothill League girls tennis standings, Saugus and Hart met Tuesday in a pivotal match toward the league’s third and final playoff spot.

The Indians swept all six sets in the first round and used that momentum to catapult to a 12-6 win over Saugus, giving them a sweep of the Centurions this season.

“I think we played on of our best matches of the season,” said Hart coach Allan Hardbarger. “The last time we played Saugus we came out a little sluggish but that definitely wasn’t the case this time.

Saugus’ Emily Belcher returns a shot during her singles match against Hart at Saugus High School. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/For The Signal

“This was a pretty huge match as far as playoff positioning.”

The Indians (4-3 in Foothill League) now hold a one-game lead over Saugus (3-4) and also hold the head-to-head tiebreaker with just three league matches to play.

While Hardbarger thought the Indians started off slow their last match against Saugus, they still walked away with a 16-2 win back on Sept. 14.

“This obviously hasn’t been our season but I was proud that they were able to improve by four sets from the last match,” said Saugus coach Ken Jeffris. “We’ve got a very young team and there’s plenty to look forward to down the road.”

Hart’s doubles team of Emily Thompson and Cameron Schwartz swept their three sets (6-3, 6-2, 6-0) while Zoe Morris and Shannon Sindle won back-to-back sets (6-2, 6-3) before being subbed out.

“Just knowing how we performed against them last time, I think we were all pretty excited to come back and play them again,” Morris said. “When we got out to big lead like that, too, it kind of gave everyone the leeway to relax and play their game.”

Rachael Nivichanov (6-3, 6-0, 4-6) and Sarah Becker (2-6, 6-2, 6-2) each won two sets to help Hart take five of nine singles points.

Hart carried a 10-2 lead into the final round before Saugus won four of the final six sets. Emily Christensen led Cents singles players with two set wins (6-3, 6-2, 3-6) while Emily Belcher and Kenna Henderson each picked up lone wins.

Valencia 17, Golden Valley 1

Valencia singles players Carlotta Nonnis Marzano, Amanda Tabanera and Jennifer Shin had dominant performances, sweeping their sets by identical scores (6-0, 6-0, 6-0).

The Vikings (6-1) doubles team of Brenna Whelan and Noel Guerini nearly matched their singles counterparts (7-5, 6-0, 6-0) while Taylor Cohen and Nicole Stefani also won their three doubles sets.

NOTES — West Ranch remained perfect in league play (7-0) with an 18-0 win over Canyon.

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