Pair look for individual success

MANCHESTER -- As a team, the Burr and Burton Academy girls tennis team has been almost perfect over the past few seasons, winning 40 regular season matches in a row and taking home the Division II championship four of the last six years.

As the individual singles championships begin today at the First in Fitness club in Berlin (weather has moved the event from Montpelier High School), BBA's top two players -- Maddy Pagnucco and Jordan Harmon -- hope that some of that team success will rub off.

"I'm bringing my [strongest] players," said Bulldogs coach Dan Hutner. "This tournament will give them a chance to be tested."

The junior Pagnucco, part of BBA's 2011 championship and 2012 finals appearance, comes in unbeaten at 12-0 -- all of her wins in straight sets.

She will face Montpelier's Annie Jones at 9 a.m. If she gets past Jones, she'll take on the winner of the match between Mount Mansfield's Julia Dunn and South Burlington's Samantha Wulfson, the second seed.

Pagnucco competed in the individuals a year ago, falling in the first round of an extremely tough bracket, so she knows the pressure of the tournament.

"She remembers coming up last year [as a sophomore]," Hutner said. "There's always a target because of the team success. She's psyched and ready to go."

The sophomore Harmon, the Bulldogs No. 2 singles player, will face South Burlington's Lajla Badnevic at 1:30 p.m. Even though the Bulldogs and Rebels faced off last season, the two have never played.

Harmon is 9-3 this season, with two losses to her Mount Anthony counterpart Erin Winseman. But she's also won a few third-set tiebreakers, so she knows how to come through in the tight spot, Hutner said.

"Jordan has had a few tough matches this year, but it's different facing players from South Burlington or [Champlain Valley]," Hutner said.

The top four seeds are CVU's Kathy Joseph, Wulfson, St. Johnsbury's Ayame Yazawa and Montpelier's Carly Watson.

Hutner's No. 3 and No. 4 singles players, sophomore Gabi Hasaj and freshman Gabby Vella, competed as a doubles team on Thursday, losing a third-set tiebreaker in the Round of 16 to Essex's Jen Hao and Taylor Hallowell, 6-3, 4-6 and 10-7.

Hasaj won a match last year with Lauren Yeager, so she brought that experience to the individuals.

"They played great, but they haven't played a lot of doubles," said Hutner, who has paired the two together in the past couple of BBA's matches. "They were really bummed out."

In his second year leading the Bulldogs, Hutner said competing in the individuals is good prep for the playoffs, which start on May 29, as Burr and Burton aims for its seventh straight appearance in the title contest.

"I want them to make progress, get experience and confidence for the playoffs," Hutner said.


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