Hampton senior Zineb Elouazzani strode along the baseline searching for the tiniest bit of shade on the sun-drenched court. She had as much luck finding any as she did at solving Madison's Laura Reichert in the AAA state tennis final.
Reichert's fitness and punishing groundstrokes provided no place for Elouazzani to hide in a 6-1, 6-3 victory.
Reichert's title was Madison's first since 2000, when Katie Ruckert won her third straight. Reichert's win also ignited a sweep by the Northern Region, which captured all four titles (boys' singles and doubles, girls' singles and doubles), for the first time.
Reichert, a senior and three-time Northern Region champion, has been training for five years at the Tennis Center at College Park. Although one of the top players in the USTA Mid-Atlantic rankings, the state title had proved elusive to Reichert. She had not advanced past the second round in three trips to the tournament.
However, after last summer, Reichert's efforts to improve her fitness and footwork began to lift her game. She played eight sets on a scorching Friday afternoon and still had enough left Saturday to take home a trophy. She lost only 10 games in three singles matches.
"I tried to stay on the offensive and [stay] aggressive," Reichert said. "A lot of times in the past, I would lose focus and think too big. This time, I stayed within each point in the match. The fitness that we do at College Park helped me to be stronger and stay out in the heat."
After dropping the first game of the set, Reichert (20-2) won the next six games by countering Elouazzani's powerful groundstrokes. She befuddled her opponent by taking pace off her own groundstrokes, and repeatedly placing the ball in the corners during rallies.
"She was very aggressive," Elouazzani said. "I mean, she runs you around a lot. I made so many mistakes. I was looking for a solution walking around the baseline. I was trying to change, but it wasn't working."
In doubles competition, Robinson junior Christine Tran and freshman Lindsey Hardenbergh finished the season undefeated (14-0) by rallying for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Reichert and Alex Miagkov of Madison.
After dropping the first set, Tran and Hardenbergh, the region champions, improved on their serves and aggressively controlled points from the net. Hardenbergh served four consecutive winners to tie the third set at 1. Robinson then broke Reichert in the next game for a 2-1 lead and went up 4-1 when the referee levied a point and game penalty against Madison for racket throwing.
"In the beginning, we were playing sloppy," Tran said. "We needed to keep our heads and get focused."