DOVER — The fourth-seeded Conant girls’ tennis team gave undefeated top seed St. Thomas Aquinas a harder fight than expected, but the Orioles’ magical ride still came to an end.
The Saints — who moved down from Division II this year — eliminated Conant team in the Division III semifinals, 5-4. But the young Orioles, who played with a lineup of four sophomores and two freshmen, still exceeded expectations, even in a loss.
“They played their hearts out for me,” Conant Coach Jody Baker said. “It’s OK; it’s a learning experience for them.”
Like the Orioles’ first-round win over fifth-seeded Profile on Wednesday, the first four singles were split down the middle.
Sarah Smith won in first singles, 8-6, and Elizabeth Gonyea triumphed in third singles by the same score, while Abigail Wheeler lost in second (8-1) and Kayley Bennett fell in fourth (8-3).
But unlike Wednesday, the later singles matches did not swing in Conant’s favor. Emily Muilenberg lost in fifth singles, 8-1, and Lily Bower lost in sixth, 8-4.
The Orioles still put up a valiant fight with their backs to the wall in the doubles matches. Smith and Gonyea won in first doubles, 9-7, and Muilenberg and Bower won in third, 8-6.
But Wheeler and Bennett fell in second doubles, 8-2, to seal Conant’s elimination.
The Orioles were in relatively good spirits after the match though, according to Baker, as they knew they could look forward to a brighter future next season.
“I felt really good about how hard they played,” Baker said. “On the bus on the way home, they were saying, ‘Can you believe how much better we are than we were in the first practice of the year?’ So that’s good to hear.”