HYDE — The St. Marys tennis team is entrenched in a historic run when it comes to tennis in District 9, and the Lady Dutch added another chapter to that Thursday when the senior duo of Lilia Lion and Brooke Henry captured the Class AA Doubles title Thursday at Clearfield Area High School.
With the title, Lion became the first girl in D-9 history to win a third doubles crown in Class AA. Lion won each of the previous two years with younger sister Davan Lion, but with Davan unable to play this season, Henry stepped in and closed out her D-9 career by winning her first title outside the team event.
The crowning was even more special with the final being an all-St. Marys affair as the lady Dutch No. 2 team of senior Lydia Ehrensberger and junior Rachel Fleming pulled off three wins — two of the comeback variety — to reach the championship match.
While there were several close games in the finals, it was Lion and Henry who won the big points when needed to best their teammates, 6-1, 6-2.
“I definitely have to say doubles is where it’s at for me,” said Lion. “I’m not really a fan of singles, so having Brooke as my partner ... she always had my back and was cheering me on the entire time. We were always lifting each other up, so it was amazing to have her as a partner this year.
“It was definitely a bummer to not have my sister playing, but I am so proud of Brooke today. She did absolutely amazing and I’m glad to call her my partner.”
As for all the her and the team’s success, Lion was quick to thank her parents (David and Rona Lion), who are also her coaches.
“My parents are my biggest supporters on and off the court, and it’s amzing to have them there for me all the time. I get corrected a little more than everyone else being their daughter, but it is so fun having them on the court.
“It was a bummer Davan couldn’t play, but I was more than happy to have Lilia as my partner,” said Henry. “I knew that her and I would push each other and work as hard as we could to get where we are.
“We’re all a family on the tennis team, and we all push each other. And, I’m happy we were able to have a season after so much debate (because of COVID-19).”
The win by Lion and Henry also completed a sweep of all three D-9 postseason events (singles, doubles, team) — something St. Marys has done each of the last three years. The Lady Dutch have won 11 of the 12 championship events since the current group of seniors were freshmen in 2017.
Lion has played a part in seven titles (3 doubles, 4 team) and Henry 5 (1 doubles, 4 team). Henry and Ehrensberger reached the doubles semifinals together a year ago as juniors.
“It’s very special to see Lilia win her third title,” said head coach David Lion. “With the situation we got put in (Davan missing season) and having her (Henry) dad Tim helping me this year too, it’s really awesome to have this happen.
“It’s been rough with the COVID situation, but we made the best of it. These girls are so coachable and respond to the recommendations we give them and they figure it out.”
Lion and Henry opened their day with a quick 10-0 win in the quarterfinals against Brockway’s No. 2 team of Hannah Zuccolotto and Taylor Rhed. That Lady Rover duo beat Elk County’s Catholic’s No. 2 team of Gina Bush and Marcella Dollinger, 10-2 in the first round.
Lion and Henry then squared off against Punxsy’s top squad of Chloe Presloid and Jade McMahan in the semifinals. The Lady Dutch played a strong first set, winning 6-2. However, they lost that momentum in set No. 2 as Presloid and McMahan picked up their play.
It appeared the match was headed to a third and deciding set as the Lady Chucks raced out to a 5-2 lead. Lion and Henry would have none of a third set, though, and showed the heart of a champion by ripping off five straigt games to win the set 7-5 and the match 2-0.
“That (second set) comeback was definitely insane,” said Lilia Lion. “That was our best one yet.”
On the other side of the bracket, Ehrensberger and Fleming truly had to work to reach the finals. They won their first round contest against Johnsonburg’s No. 2 team of Kendal Mehalko and Maria Catalano, 10-1, but had to put in some extra work in the quarterfinals.
That round featured a matchup against Clearfield’s top squad of senior Kylie VanTassel and sophomore Lindsey Kerlin. The pro-set matchup went to a tiebreaker, with Ehrensberger and Fleming rallying from an early deficit to pull out a thrilling 11-10 (8-6) victory.
That victory put the St. Marys duo into the semis against Punxsy’s second team of Allie Meko and Kendal Johnston, who upset Brockway’ No. 1 team of Selena Buttery and Morgan Pirow, 10-8, in the quarterfinals.
Ehrensberger and Fleming fell behind early again in the first set of the semifinals but battled back to again win in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-5). They then took the second set 6-3 to advance to the finals against their teammates.
“Super excited to have had an all-St. Marys final,” said David Lion. “To have my second doubles team get there, and do it the way they did was awesome. They were down in a couple matches and found a way to get back. They are scrappy and got it done today too.”
By winning the title, Lion and Henry advance to play the District 5 champions in the opening round of states on Monday, Nov. 2 at a site to be determined.