Brandywine wins back-to-back tennis regionalsPublished 11:03pm Thursday, May 16, 2013
SOUTH BEND — Last year the Brandywine tennis team surprised everyone, including themselves, in winning the Division 4 Regional championship.
Nobody was surprised at Leeper Park Thursday night when the Bobcats claimed their second straight championship.
Brandywine finished with 26 points, while Class B teams Paw Paw and Berrien Springs were second and third with 22 and 18 points respectively. Both the Redskins and Shamrocks also advance to the state finals.
It wasn’t easy, but the Bobcats claimed their fifth championship in the last seven years. Brandywine trailed Paw Paw heading into the final round.
But the Bobcats shined in the finals, sweeping the doubles flights.
Freshman Alicia Prescott was the only singles player to win a championship for Brandywine. The freshmen followed in her sister Ariel’s footsteps by becoming a regional champion. Alicia did it on Ariel’s birthday.
“Our doubles have kind of been our strength all year and it’s kind of worked out that way again today,” Brandywine coach Joe Marazita said. “We returned 10 starters from last year, so we had a lot of experience coming in. It’s been my experience as a head coach that if you have experience, it lets your players apply pressure instead of feeling pressure simply because they have that experience.
“We knew that kid (Prescott) was one of the fastest kids in the Brandywine school system. We knew with that speed and her solid groundstrokes she was going to be tough to beat. She can just run every ball down and she plays every point into next week if she has to.”
Prescott defeated Dowagiac’s Olga Dickson-French 6-1 and 6-1. It was the second straight year the Chieftains had a player in the No. 4 singles finals.
Jessy Cooper and Rachel Gipson were the only Brandywine doubles team that was paired together for the second straight year. They needed three sets, but rallied to beat Paw Paw in the finals 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
For Cooper, it was her fifth regional championship as part of Brandywine’s tennis (3) and volleyball (2) teams.
“We need to push hard, we can do this,” answered Cooper about what went through her mind after losing the first set. “It wasn’t really a surprise because I know my team can push hard. I knew we could push through it.”
At one point early in the second set, Cooper got together with Gipson and gave her some words of encouragement. Those words helped turn the match around.
“She said do you want this and I said yes I do,” Gipson said.
Three other Bobcats claimed regional doubles championships, but with different partners.
Mackenzie Shelton, who picked up a tennis racket for the first time in the spring of 2012, finished undefeated for the second straight year as she teamed with Ashley DeJonge to win the No. 2 flight over Paw Paw.
“The first and second practice I missed the ball ever single time,” Shelton recalled. “The third one things started getting better and I started improving every day. Our chemistry is great (with Ashley) she was the perfect match for me. We really push each other, it’s a real good combination.”
Cassidy Purucker was going to play with last year’s partner Abby Cole, but when Cole suffered injuries to both arms in volleyball, she had to find a new partner.
Along came Caitlyn Cummings, who had paired to win the 2012 championship with Alissa Gamble, who had moved up to No. 2 singles.
The pairing worked to perfection as they defeated Paw Paw in straight sets.
Newcomers to the regional championship party were Alli Srmek and Ember Brant, who defeated Bridgman in straight sets.
Brandywine will compete in the Division 4 state finals May 31 and June 1 at Kalamazoo College.
Division 4 Regional
at Leeper Park, South Bend
1. Brandywine 26, 2. Paw Paw 22, 3. Berrien Springs 19, 4. Bridgman 11, 5. (tie) Dowagiac 8, Lake Michigan Catholic 8, 7. Buchanan 7, 8. Coloma 5, 9. Constantine 4, 10. (tie) Cassopolis 1, Eau Claire 1
1. Arien Kissinger (Berrien Springs) d. Jessica Nelson (Paw Paw) 6-1, 6-4; 2. Yasmin Benjelloun (Berrien Springs) d. Emily Pearson (Paw Paw) 6-0, 6-3; 3. Abby Hoge (Berrien Springs) d. Leah Kline (Paw Paw) 6-3, 6-4; 4. Alicia Prescott (Brandywine) d. Olga Dickson-French (Dowagiac) 6-1, 6-1
1. Jessy Cooper-Rachel Gipson (Brandywine) d. Taylor Westrate-Kendall Wellings (Paw Paw) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3; 2. Mackenzie Shelton-Ashley DeJonge (Brandywine) d. Brooklyn Labadie-Kylee Bain (Paw Paw) 6-2, 6-2; 3. Cassidy Purucker-Caitlyn Cummins (Brandywine) d. Nicole Walters-Karina Pantoja (Paw Paw) 7-5, 6-2; 4. Alli Srmek-Ember Brant (Brandywine) d. Rachel King-Becca Stemm (Bridgman) 6-2, 6-3