DuBOIS — Elk County Catholic has owned the District 9 Class AA Doubles Tournament in recent years, and the senior duo of Emily Miller and Jenna Minard became the latest Lady Crusaders to capture the doubles crown for the school.
Miller and Minard, who lost an all-ECC final a year ago to Maria Hoh and Emma Coppolo, left DuBois Area High School with gold medals — instead of silver ones — around their necks this year after besting Brockway’s Gabby Sabatose and Savannah Buttery in a thrilling three-set final, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.
The finals showdown was even closer than the final set scores indicate, as several games featured multiple deuces as the two finalists battled back-and-forth from the opening serve.
The teams trading the first two sets by identical 6-3 scores, with ECC winning the first and Brockway the second to extend the match. Miller and Minard then jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the third-and-deciding set.
However, Sabatose and Buttery — a junior and senior, respectively — had one more comeback in them and tied the set at 3-3 and again at 4-4. But, Miller and Minard won the final two games, both of which went to deuce, to take the third set 6-4 and the match.
With the victory, Miller and Minard gave ECC its second straight D-9 doubles crown and the school’s fifth in the last seven years.
“It’s really an honor to be able to come back and win (after finishing second last year), and I think it’s fantastic we played such a great team,” said Miller. “They were really a challenge for us.”
“It was a great match, and I don’t think I’ve ever played such a good match in my life,” added Minard. “And, I’m just glad I got to play it with Emily. We’ve gown up together, so it’s really fun to get to play together.”
Both said they never imagined making it this far and winning a doubles title when they started playing as freshmen.
As for Elk County coach Pete Meier, he had nothing but praise for his senior duo, as well as their opponents.
“It was great to see them win after last year,” said Meier of his seniors. “They set this goal the whole time last year (after finishing second), and they worked for it and got it.
“Brockway has a program with John (Hawkins) and Cynthia (Copenhaver) where they just have them ready to play all the time. And, Gabby is one of the best in the district. But, our girls played phenomenal. Emily and Jenna are both in the top of the their class in grades, and just two nice, kids.
“We struggled a little bit (at times), but you play a good opponent and that happens. We won the first set, and they took the second, and that (match) was just a battle.”
The only other schools to win titles during that stretch are Brockway in 2014 (Anna Brinkley and Taylor Hepler) and Punxsutawney in 2015 (Emma White and Kaitlyn Ray). White and Ray’s title in 2015 came over Sabatose, a freshman at the time, and then Lady Rover senior Zoie Reitz.
Miller and Minard were forced to work a little harder to make the finals Tuesday on a long, hot day on the courts at DAHS. The tournament kicked off around 10 a.m. and finished a little 6 p.m.
Miller and Minard, along with Sabatose and Buttery, got first-round byes as the top two seeded teams.
The ECC duo opened their day with a 10-3 win over Brockway’s No. 2 team of Taylor Raybuck and Haley Rummel. Miller and Minard then came away with a 6-3, 6-3 win over St. Marys’ No. 2 team of Isabela Ehrensberger and Brooke Henry in the semifinals.
Raybuck and Hummel collected a 10-2 first-round win over Bradford’s Sophie Sheridan and Juliah Laemmer, while Ehrensberger and Henry captued two wins on the day in the bottom half of the draw.
The Lady Dutch duo opened with a 10-3 win over Punxsy’s top team of Kaitlin Doverspike and Madison McBee before winning a hard-fought 10-7 contest over Johnsonburg’s top squad of Cassie Cook and Anna Cristini — who won their first-round match 10-1 over Clearfield’s Allyson Gaines and Kylie VanTassel.
In the top half, Sabatose and Buttery lost just one game on their journey to the finals. They blanked Clearfield’s No. 1 team of Samantha Wisor and Kirstie VanTassel, 10-0, before beating St. Marys top duo of Kayla Mitchell and Lilia Lion, 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals.
“It was a good day of tennis,” said Brockway coach John Hawkins. “We played tough. Our girls deserve everything they got today, for sure. They played tough, and if we were going to lose, they lost the way I would have wanted them too. To go into that third set and keep fighting, and get it back to 3-3 and 4-4. We were just two games away.
“Both Gabby and Savannah have saved their best tennis for the posteason. We wanted to peak at the right time, and they have done that. It was enjoyable to watch and they really played well together today.”
Mitchell and Lion went 2-1 on the day, just like teammates Ehrensberger and Henry did. Mitchell and Lion beat Johnsonburg’s Alex Hodgdon and Madison Amacher, 10-2 in the first round before pulling out a 10-8 victory against ECC’s Alicia Fritz and Isabeau Stager in the quarterfinals.
Fritz and Stager notched a 10-1 victory in their first-round contest against Bradford’s Andrea Winsor and Kate Pfei.
As champions, Miller and Minard will represent District 9 at the PIAA Doubles Championships, which will be held Nov. 3-4 at the Hershey Racquet Club.