Bulldogs punch ticket to finals

MANCHESTER - For the eighth year in a row the Burr and Burton Academy girls tennis team is headed back to the state finals; and just like the last four years, it will be the Montpelier Solons between them and a state championship.

On Monday, BBA took care of their end with a 7-0 win over Harwood to remain perfect (14-0) and set up yet another meeting with Montpelier (14-1).

With the Solons getting the best of the Bulldogs the past two years, the team is hoping for some retribution when they take to the courts beginning at 1 p.m. today (Tuesday, June 3) at Bennington College. In the event of rain, the match will be moved to the Bennington Tennis Center.

"We want to win. Yeah, there's no question that these girls want to win badly," said BBA coach Dan Hutner. "They're ready; and they've been working hard all through these four years ready to take that back."

Even though she is new to the team, the significance of the rivalry was not lost on No. 3 singles player Irene Matas who clinched the win for the Bulldogs on Monday with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Shelby Parette. In a post game interview, Matas said she was definitely hoping that the team would get some retribution tomorrow.

"Yeah," said Matas. "I'm kind of nervous, but we already beat them so we're kind of comfy [and] I think we can beat them this year."

BBA got the best of the Solons in their first couple of go rounds - winning 4-3 in 2010 and 5-1 in 2011 before the Solons blanked BBA in each of the last to match ups.

BBA got off to a good start early on Monday. At first singles, Maddy Pagnucco backed up her fourth-place at the Vermont state individual tournament with a dominating 6-0, 6-0 win over Ally Behn that took 43 minutes to complete.

"Maddy's game is broadening, she has lots of tools to use, short shots and lobbing, which is a favorite strategy of hers," Hutner said.

Most of the games were quick, with both players trying to put the other away with hard shots to the corners. After winning the first set, Pagnucco broke Behn in the first set, winning four straight points, then won the third game in the second set as Behn double faulted four times in a row.

"She's figured out what shots to use and put them to good use," Hutner said.

At second singles, Jordan Harmon continued her good season with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Chase Fortier.

"The score didn't represent how the match went, she was good, usually play better against players with more pace," Harmon said.

Following the quick wins by Pagnucco and Harmon the No. 1 doubles team of Stella Oh and Megan Knight were able to take a hard fought win (7-5, 6-4) over Harwood's Mia Burfoot and Maddie McGeorge to give the Bulldogs the 3-0 advantage.

Knight was a last-minute sub for Julie Campanella, who didn't play due to a family emergency.

"Megan Knight did a great job stepping up as a sub in the first doubles, her and Stella had never played together before," Hutner said. "She's been the first alternate, a great team player. She has less tennis experience but she filled the void. They just went for it and did a great job."

Not long after, Matas secured the win.

"I was really excited because [we were] going to the finals and I hope we win," Matas said. "So, I'm really excited to play tomorrow."

The No. 1 doubles matchup was one of the two standout matches of the afternoon. The other came between No. 5 singles player Eliza Breed and Harwood's Mallory Wright after the match had already been decided.

"Mallory had a good match. She had a great fight there and she kind of succumbed to the forehand there a little towards the end," said Harwood coach Seth Mikale. "I think she was getting kind of hot too. We haven't had a lot of hot weather to prime us for this so it was a shock for everybody I think."

In a first set that saw several long rallies, Breed came away victorious 7-6 - winning the tiebreaker 7-2. Then, in another lengthly set, topped Wright 6-4 in the final match of the afternoon.

The second doubles of Maria De Pablo and Silvia Velasco also won in straight sets, defeating Harwood's Sienna Jean and Lillie Miller (6-1, 6-0) as did No. 4 singles player Gabby Vella who defeated Sarah Brodeur 6-0, 6-0.

When the Bulldogs and Solons square off again today, Hutner said there is one area he expects the competition to be particularly fierce.

"Montpelier's strength is in their doubles teams," he said. "Their doubles teams play really well and they play really good tactically. So they play above the level of their just their own individual technique. They play well together. So, their doubles can be the hardest part. I think they're (the girls) ready, but they're going to be tough matches."

The Bennington Banner contributed to this report.

Follow on Twitter @BrandonCanevari


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