Milan Graves and Michelle Bucher stepped off the court to cheers, hugs and high-fives Monday afternoon, unaware that they had just clinched the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference girls’ tennis championship for St. John’s after winning their second-flight doubles final.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” said Bucher, a senior who plans on playing in college at a Division II school, after she was informed of the accomplishment. “Everyone needed to play at the best of their ability.”
St. John’s, which has captured three consecutive league titles and seven in the past eight years, has been accustomed to entering the finals of the WCAC championship with the title locked up.
But it wasn’t until the doubles portion of the tournament was completed at Olney Manor Recreational Park this year that Coach Merritt Johnson could breathe a sigh of relief.
“We were definitely the team to beat, and these teams were coming after us,” Johnson said.
St. John’s finished with 32 points. Paul VI took second place with 29 points and Good Counsel and O’Connell tied for third with 13 points.
Teams were awarded one point for winning a first-round match, two for a second-round match and three for winning the final match in each of the six singles and three doubles tournaments.
St. John’s junior Stephanie Miller captured the No. 1 singles title by beating Good Counsel’s Stephanie Grodecki, 8-5, to kick off the Cadets’ strong day.
“I came in to this tournament knowing what I had to work on,” said Miller, who lost to Grodecki by the same score during the regular season. “I had to be more consistent and move a lot quicker to beat her.”
In addition to the No. 2 doubles victory, St. John’s won three of the six singles flights, with Graves and Chloe Henderson winning at No. 2 and No. 5 singles, respectively. Rounding out the singles winners were O’Connell’s Mariel Cardenas at No. 3, Mandy Hope of Paul VI at No. 4 and Bishop Ireton’s Megan Sullivan at No. 6.
In doubles, Good Counsel’s tandem of Grodecki and Megan Keller won the first flight and Paul VI’s twin freshmen sisters Mandy and Kathleen Hope won at No. 3.
“This win feels good especially because of the great competition,” Johnson said. “They made us sweat. I’m proud of my girls. It was a tough road.”