LORDSTOWN - The John F. Kennedy and Lordstown girls tennis teams split the first four games in their match Thursday at Lordstown Village Park, but the Eagles came up big in the fifth and deciding matchup.
The Kennedy doubles team of Chandler Shoaf and Rachel Pinti beat Lordstown's Marina Patitucci and Kaitlin Ginkinger 7-5, 6-3.
The Kennedy duo got off to a quick 4-1 lead in the first set, but the Red Devils fought back to tie it 5-5. Kennedy then got a break and a hold to take the set.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Lordstown’s Amber Dillard returns the ball during her singles match with John F. Kennedy’s Laurencia Lee.
"I think honesty we were just underestimating them to begin with," Pinti said. "We realized it was time to quit playing around and get serious and treat them like any other team."
"I think they were overthinking a little bit," Kennedy coach Laura Kolovich said. "Sometimes their own worst enemy is their own mind. I calmed them back down and told them to play their own game."
Lordstown looked like it might take the second set. The first four games saw breaks of serve, then the Red Devils held for a 3-2 advantage.
It was all JFK from then on, as Shoaf and Pinti held at love, got a break and held again for a 5-3 lead. Lordstown fell behind 0-40 on its own serve, but fought back to 30-40. On the third match point, the Red Devils netted the ball to end it.
"We just decided it was time to quit playing around and we needed to get out there and just finish it," Shoaf said.
Kolovich said a change in tactics also helped her team.
"They went back to classic doubles play, instead of worrying about the girl that was approaching the net," she said.
Shoaf and Pinti are now 7-1, while Patitucci and Ginkinger are 3-2.
In an earlier match, Kennedy's Laurencia Lee improved to 7-2 this season with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Amber Dillard.
Lee broke Dillard's serve every time and the only two games she dropped were when she was broken.
Leading 5-1, Lee charged the net and volleyed a ball that hit the tape and dropped over to win the first set. Lee jumped out to a 4-0 advantage in set two before Dillard broke for her first game. The Kennedy senior broke right back and at 30-30 in the final game, Lee hit a drop shot for a point and finished off the match when Dillard netted the ball.
"I've been working on my forehand and everything," Lee said. "I think I played very well today. My serve wasn't on but I think my groundstrokes were pretty consistent."
Dillard dropped to 6-6 this season.
"Definitely experience prevailed," Lordstown coach Joe Ronghi said. "Amber's a three-year player but she's really an eight-month player. She picks up the racket when the season comes. She plays a little bit in the winter but not much."
In other matches, Lordstown's Hannah Lickwar defeated Autumn Howard 6-0, 6-3, Daisy Free defeated Kennedy's Alona Howard 6-0, 6-1, and Maria Stroup and Magan Guliano of Kennedy beat Amanda Anderson and Kaci Egley 6-1, 6-0.
Kennedy has five regular-season matches remaining before the district tournament, which will be Wednesday, Oct. 3 at Boardman High School (for singles) and Volney Rogers Courts at Mill Creek Park (for doubles). Kolovich feels the Eagles have a good chance in that event.
"I think we have a decent chance," Kolovich said. "Lauren's record is really, really great. She's been to districts two times now. I hope we do good in getting her seeded. My first doubles team has only one loss. They'll be OK."