WESTFIELD TWP. — Thanks to Emily Dunbar, Maddie Huff and Helaina Limas, the Cloverleaf girls tennis team is in uncharted waters.
Coach Brenda Hewit’s team swept the singles courts Monday en route to a 3-2 Portage Trail Conference victory over Norton, meaning the Colts (14-3, 13-1) and Panthers (15-1, 13-1) tied for first place in the regular season.
The PTC Tournament will be held at 8 a.m. today at Ravenna High, with Norton and Cloverleaf clearly the class of the league. Whichever school scores more points today will capture the overall league title, something Cloverleaf has never done in girls tennis.
“Tennis is a sport that’s overlooked,” said third singles player Limas, who improved her record to 15-0, 13-0 with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Taylor Storad (10-2, 6-2). “It would be huge for us to come through and win.”
Dunbar, a three-time Gazette MVP and Division II state runner-up a year ago, improved to 16-0, 14-0 with a double-bagel victory over Spencer Clark (14-2, 12-2), a home-schooled Garrettsville resident. The University of Richmond recruit has not lost a game this season.
With Norton winning easily on both doubles courts, the match came down to second singles, where Huff (15-2, 13-1) trailed 5-4 in the first set before rallying for a 7-5, 6-1 victory over Casey Clark (15-1, 13-1), Spencer’s sister.
“(Assistant coach Vicki Dunbar) told me to believe in myself and step up and call the balls that were out,” the junior said. “I just had to play my game.”
Huff lost to Casey Clark in straight sets in the teams’ first meeting, won 3-2 by Norton, but took nine of the last 10 games in the rematch.
“I knew we were pretty even,” the right-hander said. “I knew it would be a tough match. I just had to play point by point. Once I won the first set, I could be a little more aggressive and be more consistent.”
Limas, who had missed the Colts’ previous two matches with a sprained right ankle, had no such trouble with Storad. Like Dunbar, the junior was off the court in less than 45 minutes.
“I wanted to do my best for my team,” Limas said. “I’ve hurt my ankle before. It’s all about pushing through for my team.
“She’s one of the best girls I’ve played, so I was very nervous to play her. I just tried to bring the best I could.”
Norton’s Sarah Whitaker and Emily Smith improved to 16-0, 14-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Abby Andrews and Nicole Vargo at first doubles, while the Panthers’ Emily Creighton and Jessica Thomas have an identical record after downing Annacia Dienes and Grace Donnelly by an identical score at the No. 2 position.
Cloverleaf and Norton will each receive a trophy for tying for first place in the regular season, but that tie means the league champ will be determined by the tournament, which uses a 10-8-7-6-5-4-3-1 scoring format for first through eighth place.
The Panthers, who are led by former Wadsworth girls and boys coach Angie Carretta, will be favored to win at both doubles spots, with the Colts a virtual lock at first singles and a heavy favorite at third singles.
That means a potential second singles final between Huff and Casey Clark could be pivotal. Equally important will be how high Norton’s Storad finishes at third singles and where the Colts place in doubles.
“It’s going to be cool,” Huff said. “Each of us can win (at singles). If we all win, our team can win. We have a lot of confidence.”
Cloverleaf 3, Norton 2
Singles: Emily Dunbar (C) def. Spencer Clark, 6-0, 6-0; Maddie Huff (C) def. Casey Clark, 7-5, 6-1; Helaina Limas (C) def. Taylor Storad, 6-0, 6-0. Doubles: Sarah Whitaker/Emily Smith (N) def. Abby Andrews/Nicole Vargo, 6-2, 6-3; Emily Creighton/Jessica Thomas (N) def. Annacia Dienes/Grace Donnelly, 6-2, 6-3. Records: Norton (15-1, 13-1), Cloverleaf (14-3, 13-1).