Cards get through Panthers en route to semis

Staff photo by TOM KING Bihsop Guertin top singles player Claire Reynolds keeps her eye on the ball during her tough 8-6 win over Nashua South's Kaitlin Fitzgibbons in the Division I quarterfinals on Wedndsday. The Cards advanced to the semis with an 8-1 win.

NASHUA – Perhaps it was the calm before the storm for the Bishop Guertin High School girls tennis team.

Use any cliché you like. The fact is the Cardinals on Wednesday beat a competitive Nashua South team 8-1 in the Division I quarterfinals, and now the road to at potential title gets much more difficult.

Next up for the third seeded, 14-1 Cardinals is No. 2 Derryfield (also 14-1) on the road in Friday’s semis, and the two teams did not play during the regular season. The winner would likely get unbeaten Bedford in the finals. Get the picture?

“We knew it was going to be tough, but it was a little tougher than we thought,” Cards coach Barry Ndinya said. “We knew Derryfield is a bottom heavy team. We know it’s going to be a tough match. We’ll just do the best we can.”

Now granted, some of the matches weren’t that close on Wednesday, but the one that drew a lot of attention was Claire Reynolds’ 8-6 win over Panther No. 1 Kaitlin Fitzgibbons. Fitzgibbons, who lost to Reynolds earlier in the year 8-0, was one point away from knotting things at 7 before Reynolds fought back with four straight points to break serve and get the Cards their fifth singles win, clinching the match.

What got her through it?

“Experience,” Ndinya said. “She’s been in USTA tournaments, so she’s been in this position before. That will help a lot. It’s a good start for her (in the tournament) to overcome a tough match.”

Even in the loss, that match was a bright spot for the Panthers, who finish the year an impressive 11-4.

“I’m incredibly proud of Kaitlin,” South coach Charles Gray said. “When you play a player like Claire, you don’t want to beat yourself mentally. You want to stay focused and give you a chance to win, and she did.”

“I was a lot more inconsistent today, but it was a good match, (Fitzgibbons) played really well,” Reynolds said. “It was really good to win today. We played some close matches. Derryfield and Bedford are very good … We’ll have to play really well. There are some good teams out there.”

Guertin, whose only loss was to Bedford, is certainly one of them. Their only loss Wednesday was at No. 5 singles, where Panther senior Nora Goldenberg downed Elizabeth Janiak, 8-4. Goldenberg actually had moved up a spot from No. 6 before the match began.

“She’s been one of the most reliable players I’ve had,” Gray said. “So it didn’t surprise me she did that in her last match.”

But it was all Guertin otherwise.

In the other matches, Guertin’s Amy Maalouf topped Meghana Avvaru, 8-1 at No. 2; Katelyn Nichols and Hannah Gilbertson both blanked Pallavi Ravada and Shrijaa Mohan at Nos. 3 and 4 respectively, 8-0; and the Cards’ Natalie Sheehy handled South’s Uvika Akkineni at No. 6, 8-2.

Doubles were played as scheduled despite the match being decided. Nichols/Gilbertson topped Ravada/Mohan 8-1 at No. 2 and Sheey/Margo Liakos handled Goldenberg/Akkineni 8-4 in quick matches. The day ended with Reynolds/Maalouf beatig South’s Fitzgibbons/Avvaru 8-4.

“We just wanted to improve on last year,” Gray said. “It’s disappointing to lose, but at the same time, we’re losing to a good team that’s going to contend for a state championship.”