DuBOIS — The opening day of the District 9 Singles Tournament provided some exciting matches, with St. Marys freshman Samantha Hayes and Punxsutawney sophomore Abby Gigliotto working their way through the field to reach today’s championship match.
The pair experienced polar opposite days in reaching the finals, and in the process set up a final featuring players from St. Marys and Punxsy for the second straight year.
A year ago, Lady Dutch senior Sarah Casey bested Punxsy’s Kaitlin Ray, 6-1, 6-1 to end her standout career with her third straight D-9 singles title. The two schools also met in the 2014 final, with Casey beating Amber Ward to capture her first title.
Hayes, the top seed entering the tournament, got a first-round bye along with Elk County Catholic senior Emily Miller.
Once she took the court, Hayes reached the finals without dropping a game as she used her return-everything style of play to force her opponents into mistakes.
Hayes blanked Punxsy’s Alex Campbell, 10-0, in the quarterfinals before sweeping ECC senior Jenna Minard, 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals in a match that featured several long rallies despite the lopsided score.
“She played very steady and did everything we could of asked from her,” said St. Marys coach Dave Lion of Hayes’ opening-day performance. “She was very patient and consistent, and that’s her style. She’s willing to stay out there as long as it takes and chase down as much as she can. She knows her game.”
“To not lose a game today and reach the finals as a freshman is an amazing accomplishment already,” added assistant coach Rona Lion. “We look forward to good things from her.”
Minard reached the semifinals with a pair of victories.
She opened her day with a 10-1 win over Clearfield’s Samanth Wisor before upending Brockway senior Savannah Buttery, 10-2, in the quarterfinals. Buttery took an early 2-1 lead on Mintad before the Lady Crusader seized control of the match.
Buttery captured her first ever district victory in the first round when she pulled out a hard-fought 10-8 win over Cassie Cook, Johnsonburg’s No. 1 player. Buttery raceed out to a 6-1 lead in that match before holding off Cook to advance in the tournament.
As for Gigliotti, she became the story of the opening day as she topped two other No. 1s who had beaten her during the regular season.
The Lady Chucks top player won three times — beating a pair of other No. 1 players along the way — to set up the championship showdown with Hayes in a battle of first-time finalists making their first D-9 tournament appearances.
Gigliotti opened her day with 10-1 win over Clearfield freshman Allyson Gaines before knocking off Miller, 10-5, in the quarterfinals.
Miller, playing her first match of the day, jumped out to a 4-1 lead before falling ill prior to the pro-set break. Miller tried to gut out the match, but Gigliotti seized control of things after the break and won nine of the final 10 games to come away with the 10-5 victory. Miller had beaten Gigliotti handily in the regular season.
Gigliotti’s come-from-behind victory set up a semifinal matchup with Brockway’s Gabby Sabatose. The Lady Rover junior was coming off arguably her best match of the season — a 10-4 quarterfinal win over St. Marys freshman Lilia Lion.
That quarterfinal matchup saw Lion jump out to a 3-2 lead at the pro-set break before Sabatose stepped up her play and won eight of the final nine games to capture a 10-4 win. Lion beat Johnsonburg’s Anna Cristini, 10-0, in the opening round.
“Lilia played solid today, but Gabby played very well and was just the better player today,” said Dave Lion.
Sabatose carried the momentum from that strong victory in the semifinals and easily won the opening set against Gigliotti, 6-3. However, the Lady Chuck totally flipped the match after the set break and won the first four games of the second set.
Sabatose battled back within 5-3 late in the set, but Gigliotti won the ensuing game to take the set, 6-3, to extend the match.
Set No. 3 opened with a long, hard-fought game that featured five deuces. Both players had the advantage in the game, but it was Sabatose who finally broke Gigliotti’s serve, winning on her fourth game-point to take an early 1-0 lead.
Gigliotto responded by breaking Sabatose’s serve before winning on her serve to go up 2-1. The pair traded games from there, with Sabatose never able to edge back out front despite evening the set a couple times.
With things tied 4-4, Gigliotti won the all-crucial ninth game of the set to go back on top 5-4. The Lady Chuck jumped out to a 40-0 lead in the game, only to see Sabatose win three straight points to get things to deuce.
But, Gigliotti didn’t let the game slip away. She won the ensuing point to take the advantage, then won the game with a nice lob shot a couple feet inside the baseline after pulling Sabatose up to the net.
The next game also went to deuce, with Gigliotto once again winning two straight points to take the game and the set, 6-4, to complete her three-set, come-from-behind victory.
Sabatose opener her day with a 10-0 first-round win over Bradford’s Juliah Laemmer.
“We got wins in our first round from both girls,” said Brockway coach John Hawkins. “Savannah Buttery played very well and it was nice to see her being a senior get her first win at districts. She came out hot the second round, and we were hoping she could pull that one out. But hey, she played tough.
“Then Gabby beating the St. Marys No. 2 Lion –she is a great player and hits the ball hard. So, coming out and beating her was a big deal for us and just to get that confidence built up. We couldn’t ask for a better matchup here in the semis, it was quite the match.
“It wasn’t the end result we wanted, but that will come. Abby (Gigliotti) had a lot of heart, and she played very well today. We just couldn’t get it done.”
Hayes and Gigliotti will square off for the D-9 singles crown today at 3:30 p.m. at DuBois Area High School. Hayes has already beaten Gigliotti twice this season — 6-0, 6-0 and 6-0, 6-1.