The Sanderson girls’ tennis team faced a lot of distractions Tuesday, starting with a bomb threat that forced an evacuation of the school during classes.
Plus, playing at Leesville Road always brings another set of commotions, but the Spartans were able to fight through and whip an emerging Pride team 9-0 to continue their undefeated season.
“It was scary,” Sanderson senior Katie Griffin said of the bomb threat. “Everyone was shaken up, but we just knew that Leesville is third in the conference right now, and we knew they were going to playing their best today. We just had to focus and get through this match and worry about what happened at school today after that.”
Sanderson (11-0, 8-0 Cap-8) has to worry, too, about playing Broughton on Thursday in what will be a crucial match for conference supremacy.
“Every time we come to practice, we work hard,” Spartans coach Joe Mesiano said. “I have music playing all the time – as fun, but also as a distraction to keep them focused. At the end of practice, we always have fun drill games and things like that, just to loosen it up.
“They know what’s going on. We don’t talk about, but we work hard. Today, the scores were a little lopsided, but the girls didn’t play well. The reason for that is they had a bomb scare today at Sanderson. That was on their minds, but they still played mentally tough. They still did the things we wanted.”
Leesville (5-6, 5-4) continued to make improvements, as the Pride chase a state dual-team playoff berth – which would be a first in coach Molly Harnden’s five-year tenure.
"We’ve been building this program for a few years now,” Harnden said. The girls finally believe that we’re where we should be in the conference and doing what we should be against a lot of the teams we (play).”
They said it
Griffin on Sanderson’s terrific start: “We’re all having fun, and we’re just excited to see how good we can do. I don’t think we crack under the pressure; I think we do better under it.”
Three who mattered
Dylan Cannon, Sanderson: The sophomore lost only two games across her No. 2 singles and doubles matches. She beat Cailley Michaud 6-1, 6-1 and teamed with Anna-Scott Holshouher to win 8-0 at doubles
Sibel Tanik, Sanderson: In a matchup of two of the best young players in the area, freshman Tanik beat freshman Lauren Robbins 7-5, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. Tanik and Safia Anthony then won at No. 1 doubles 8-5.
Robbins: The Pride freshman rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the first game against Tanik to trail 6-5, but Tanik took the first set. Robbins and Michaud then pushed Sanderson’s No. 1 doubles team before falling.
Out of bounds
Tennis at Leesville can be an adventure. The match started with football practice only a few yards away, and then runners from a Leesville-Enloe cross country match weaved their way around the courts. Late in the match, a flock of geese flew overhead, creating another distraction.
"Since I’m a senior, I’ve played here multiple times, (but) it’s kinda funny having football going on,” Griffin said. “We all knew that we needed to zone it out because he had to get through today, or it wouldn’t matter if we beat Broughton on Thursday.”
Leesville enjoys the home-court advantage.
“It’s hectic,” Michaud said. “But I like the commotion.”
Harnden believes that if her team continues to play the away it’s been playing, a playoff berth is possible. She has a core group of seniors that have been the program four years, leading a Leesville resurgence.
“I can’t even put into words what it would mean (to make the playoffs),” Harnden said. “When you work your way up and each year you get better and more confident, it would mean the world to them – and especially this group of seniors that I have. Each year, they’ve worked harder and harder.”
Mesiano has worked hard to keep his team grounded, and the message seems to have gotten through.
“We’re just thinking of the next match,” Griffin said. “We’ve done really well so far, but we know that everyone is coming after us because everyone wants to beat us this season. We’re ready for Thursday.”