By: Angelise Stuhl
PHILADELPHIA – Unblemished … Flawless … Perfection.
Those are some adjectives that can be used to describe the 16-0 regular season record that Lansdale Catholic accrued this fall. This past Thursday at the Legacy Youth Tennis Center, Lansdale Catholic defeated Cardinal O’Hara 3-2 to win the 2021 Philadelphia Catholic League Championship.
Through grit and determination, the Crusaders rallied to secure the deciding match, which was played between No. 1 singles players Emerson Selgrath from Lansdale Catholic and Samma Zahran from Cardinal O’Hara. On the final point of the third set, Selgrath was swarmed by her teammates and the celebration commenced.
“It was a really nice and a really energetic moment,” said Selgrath, who is a freshman with a notable power shot. “I lost the first set 0-6, which was not my proudest moment. But that really motivated me to do better in the next two sets. I played a lot better in those and I just pushed through and won.”
For LC head coach Wendy Bradshaw, seeing her team rejoice was icing on the cake to an even sweeter end to the regular reason.
“It just really is a thrill to finally win, and to get that PCL championship victory,” said Bradshaw.
For the Crusaders, arriving at center court with the PCL trophy in hand was no easy feat. During the regular season, Lansdale Catholic defeated Cardinal O’Hara 4-1. However, anyone who knows anything about PCL girls tennis knows that the Lady Lions are reigning champs – make that reigning champions for the past six seasons. O’Hara certainly made Lansdale work to claim their rights to the coveted PCL plaque.
“We stepped up our game, probably 100 percent, from the first time that we played them (LC). The first time we didn’t play too well. But they tried as hard as they could down to the last court. Down to the third set, you can’t get any closer than that,” said Cardinal O’Hara head coach Patty Fitzgerald. “I kept telling [my girls] to stay focused, to have fun, to smile, to breathe…and whatever happens it will be okay no matter what.”
At the beginning of the season, making it to the PCL championship was hindsight, being that Bradshaw did not originally have enough girls to field a 7-person squad. Cue sophomore Luisa Gross. Gross, a transfer student from Germany, was looking to get involved and had a tennis background. Game...Set...Match...It was love at first sight - all puns intended.
“I really like it here. Everything was new but everyone was nice to me and I really like it at Lansdale Catholic,” said Gross.
“Luisa has been embraced,” said Bradshaw. “We only had six players to begin the season and I kept thinking ‘where is my seventh player going to come from?’ and then a woman who works at LC came to the court and said ‘Hey I have an exchange student from Germany who wants to play tennis’ and I was so excited to have found my seventh player and have enough people to play.”
Gross played No. 2 doubles alongside freshman teammate Sabrina Gambale. The duo was the first to come off the court, giving the Crusaders a 1-0 edge over the Lions. Cardinal O’Hara’s No. 1 doubles team of Kayleigh DellaVecchio (senior) and Jordan Graney (junior) tied the match 1-1 after defeating Lansdale Catholic’s Caroline Kerr (senior) and Bridget Keyser (junior) in straight sets 6-3, 6-3.
Lansdale Catholic junior Ella Moran, did not lose a single match all season playing in the No. 3 singles position. Moran’s points against Cardinal O’Hara sophomore Sophia Bora were notably long. So much so, that Moran started counting the shots in order to stay focused, securing a 6-0, 6-1 victory to put LC ahead 2-1.
“I knew I had to be consistent,” said Moran. “I was counting my shots in my head. I would hit one and keep counting and some points went up to twenty-something, but I just kept counting.”
The tying 2-2 match for Cardinal O’Hara came off the No. 2 singles court in another nail-biting contest. Sophomore Theresa Stolarczyk defeated LC senior Heather Carr in two close sets 6-4, 7-5. Stolarczyk embodied the phrase “confidence is key” in order to come away with the victory.
“I came in with a lot of confidence because I think confidence is really the key to success. I made sure that I wasn’t upset when I lost previous points and I just focused on the ball and I told myself ‘whatever happens, it’s okay.’ And I think that’s how I got through it,” said Stolarczyk.
With the match tied 2-2, all eyes navigated to the No. 1 singles match between Selgrath and Zahran. The three set showdown ended with scores of 0-6, 6-4 and 6-1 in favor of Lansdale’s freshman phenom.
On Thursday, both Lansdale Catholic (2A) and Cardinal O’Hara (3A) will represent the Philadelphia Catholic League in the District 12 tournament at Legacy Tennis Center. The singles and doubles individual tournaments for District 12 will be held on Oct. 27.