Before the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls’ tennis championship finals, Good Counsel Coach Lee Ingham walked around the courts wearing an orange boa and a Halloween-themed hat. She also played music during warmups up at Olney Manor Park on Sunday morning.
Ingham wanted to keep the Falcons’ spirits high and eliminate any pressure with her team entering the final day of the season atop the tournament standings.
The methods did the trick as Good Counsel recorded 37 points to claim its first WCAC team championship since 1996. Paul VI finished second with 31 points.
“It kind of just made everything fun,” Falcons senior Megan Keller said. “Tennis is a game at the end of the day, and we had so much fun. It just really made it a really good place to be.”
Three of the Falcons’ points came from sophomore Melinda Yan’s walkover win in No. 1 singles. She entered the weekend as the second seed in the bracket behind Holy Cross’s Dori Mesmer.
Mesmer, who won the No. 2 singles title last year behind former Holy Cross standout Shannon Hanley, triumphed in her semifinal match Saturday but forfeited the final because she left to go out of town.
So Yan watched her teammates play singles, while St. John’s Dominique Jackson defeated Paul VI’s Ronnie Gruseck, 8-4, to take the No. 2 singles title in a 90-minute match on the main court.
“Melinda’s our No. 1,” Ingham said. “She’s outstanding. She’s an absolutely beautiful, beautiful player.”
Yan took the main court for No. 1 doubles, which Mesmer’s absence forced Holy Cross to forfeit, too, and showcased the power her coach lauded when she and Keller faced Jackson and Amber Brown. At the time of the match, the Falcons were knotted with Paul VI in the standings.
The Falcons’ No. 3 doubles pair of Lindsey Burke and Rana Eskandari Zadeh, meanwhile, won an 8-5 clash against St. John’s on an adjacent court, and their victory ensured Good Counsel’s title.
Yan and Keller had to finish their match while their teammates ran to Burke and Zadeh for a group hug and cheers. But missing the initial celebration didn’t faze the duo who finished second in No. 1 doubles a year ago.
“I was super happy for them because once they won, I knew we won the whole thing,” Yan said. “I actually felt more relaxed in my playing, so there wasn’t as much pressure.”
About 15 minutes later, Yan and Keller joined the excitement after sealing their victory over St. John’s top doubles pair. Keller, one of the team’s captains, kissed the trophy as the Falcons kneeled for pictures on the court.
Tessa Batz beat Paul VI’s Catie Mandable, 8-2, at No. 3 singles to get the day started for Good Counsel. Paul VI picked up wins at Nos. 4, 5 and 6 singles against Good Counsel opponents courtesy of Mandy Hope (8-4), Kay Hope (8-3) and Lisa Nguyen (8-3) , respectively.
The Hope sisters teamed up to take the No. 2 doubles title with an 8-3 win over Good Counsel’s Batz and Rani Das.
“Amazing team this year,” Ingham said. “My goal was to get them to be happy, relaxed and to play the best that they could play, and there they were.”
NOTE: A previous version of this story included incorrect match scores for No. 2 singles, No. 3 singles and No. 5 singles, which were provided by tournament staff.