DuBOIS — For the sixth year in a row the girls tennis District 9 AA Singles title will return to St. Marys, as Samantha Hayes defeated Punxsutawney’s Abby Gigliotti 6-0, 6-0 Wednesday at DuBois Area High School.
The sophomore lost just two games in three matches during the tournament, both coming against teammate Davan Lion in Monday’s semifinal.
Hayes used her methodical approach and precision hitting to power her to a second D-9 singles title in as many years.
Throughout the season, Hayes success came by returning almost every shot that was hit to her by any opponent, which she did in her singles championship win Wednesday.
Along with returning everything, Hayes also took several aggressive shots in the match, many of which paid off, landing just inside the line for key points.
The sophomore credited her recent practices with her grandfather for helping her improve her aggressive shot taking.
“He’s been trying to teach me to balance it out,” Hayes said. “I normally went with the approach of just lobbing it over, but we’ve been trying to throw in a few more good shots here and there.”
Hayes’ head coach Dave Lion noted that every time she was pressed during the match she did what she had to in order to win the point.
“She (Hayes) just takes the net out of the equation,” Lion said. “I think Punxsy should be proud of themselves, she (Gigliotti) played a great match.”
The is just one of many recent star players to come out of St. Marys in recent years, as the Lady Dutch have brought home seven of the last eight district titles in singles.
In 2011 it was Amy Orr winning the title, followed by Aubrey Wiesner in 2013 then thee straight titles from Sarah Casey from 2014-16 and now the back-to-back titles from Hayes.
“We are very proud of our accomplishments in the past and today,” Lion said. “As far as the program goes, I can’t be any happier.”
After the first three rounds of the tournament being played Monday, both Hayes and Gigliotti having had byes into the quarterfinals, the championship match was postponed Tuesday afternoon due to severe weather across the area.
Wednesday afternoon brought much nicer weather, as after the court was cleared of leaves and pine straw left over from Tuesday’s storms, Hayes and Gigliotti were ready to battle it out in a rematch of 2017’s district title match.
The Lady Dutch sophomore also came away with a 6-0, 6-0 victory last season.
This year, Hayes gained control of the match early, as she started with the serve and won the first game 40-30.
Gigliotti then took the service line as she looked to even the set at 1-1, taking a 40-30 advantage.
Hayes battled back to win the next three points to break Gigliotti’s serve and take a 2-0 advantage.
Later in the opening set, Hayes had a 3-0 lpoiead and a 40-30 advantage, as the two rattled off one of the longest rallies of the match.
The Punxsutawney junior delivered a powerful serve to start the point, which Hayes was able to return and later in the rally Hayes was able to secure the game with a well struck shot on the run.
Hayes would eventually close out the first set by Breaking Gigliotti’s serve for the third time to win 6-0.
The Lady Dutch sophomore opened the second set by winning her serve and then breaking Gigliotti’s serve to take a 2-0 advantage.
In the third game, the two found themselves in another long rally with the game tied 30-30.
Gigliotti hit a well placed shot into the corner, as Hayes was able to return the shot, but Gigliotti came up to the net and looked to put Hayes away with a drop shot to go ahead 40-30.
However, Hayes made the run all the way across the court to get to the ball ahead of the second bounce and fired a shot passed Gigliotti to take the 40-30 advantage.
Hayes went on to win the game and closed out the match by winning the final three games to secure the 6-0, 6-0 victory.
From the first serve to the final point won, the match took just 45 minutes, as Hayes claimed her second singles title in as many years.
For many sophomores, a spot in a district title match would be a high-pressure situation, but Hayes looked calm and collected from start to finish with her experience from last season.
“I was a lot less nervous,” Hayes said. “I still was nervous, it’s just all part of the game though.”
Her head coach noted that things are easier the second time and said Hayes seemed comfortable from the start.
“Being familiar with the surroundings and the opponent and things worked out for us today,” Lion said.
Both players were very accurate on their serves throughout the match, as there was only one double fault between the two players.
To get to the title match, Hayes had a bye in the first round, defeated Elk County Catholic’s Maggie Challingsworth 10-0 in the quarterfinals, then topped her teammate Lion 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinal.
Gigliotti also had a bye into the quarterfinals, where she beat Johnsonburg’s Madison Amacher 10-0, before battling passed ECC’s Emma Copppolo 7-5, 6-4 in the semifinals Monday.
Hayes advances to the PIAA Tennis Singles Championships which will be held at Hershey Racquet Club Nov. 2-3.