By Jim Lane
For the Mirror
HOLLIDAYSBURG - For more than a half hour, all eyes at the Golden Tiger Tennis Center were riveted on Hollidaysburg's Susie Ellis and Altoona's Sarah Seidel as they battled with the District 6 Class AAA team tennis championship on the line.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Susie Ellis returns a shot for the Lady Tigers in the title match Wednesday.
The other four matches lasted only 90 minutes and each team came away with two points - Altoona's Ashli Livermore and Lauren Lucas in singles and Hollidaysburg's Alyssa Kustenbauder and Nur Cardakli and Sierra Cobler and Alyssa Pheasant in doubles.
That meant the Ellis-Seidel match - the only one not finished at that point - would determine the D6-AAA girls team title. Ellis had won the first set, 6-2, but the second set became nerve-wracking, besides lengthy, as the two young ladies traded baseline lobs with the eyes of many fans as well as their teammates and coaches focused on them for what seemed like an eternity.
Ellis took a 2-0 lead in the second set before Seidel battled back to tie it at 4-4. Ellis regrouped to win the next two games and the set, 6-4, which set off a Hollidaysburg celebration.
"I was definitely nervous," Ellis said of all the attention. "It was tough to be the only ones playing with your match deciding which team would win. I definitely didn't want to let my team down."
It was the fourth straight district team title for the Lady Tigers and Ellis, a senior, has been a part of all four of them as well as classmates Mariah Turiano, Kustenbauder and Cardakli.
Hollidaysburg and Altoona met twice during the regular-season and, like yesterday, the Tigers also won those meetings by 3-2 scores.
"I wasn't involved in either one of those finishes," Ellis said. "This was the first time I had to play with the match on the line and it was definitely difficult."
Ellis said it was tougher than when she won the District 6-AAA doubles title recently.
"It was definitely harder to play with the team title on the line because in the doubles it was against our own teammates so somebody from Hollidaysburg was going to win," Ellis said.
"All three times 3-2, but this one was definitely more nerve-wracking with the district championship on the line," Tiger coach Brian Denis said.
"I think Susie Ellis has been the last match for the last three years," he said, "so she's our closer.
"When the money's on the line, and you need someone to gut out a win, I wouldn't want anyone else up there but her," Denis added.
Altoona coach Eric Hovan was proud of Seidel's effort against Ellis.
"Sarah did a great job of battling back," Hovan said. "She was down 2-0 [second set] and did a great job of fighting back in. She had a great effort.
"It's tough, but I'm very proud of our girls," Hovan said. "In all three matches, we had great efforts [and] being on the verge [of victory] all three times is tough."
Game notes: Hollidaysburg will face the District 9 champion in a PIAA first-round match next Tuesday at noon at the Leopold Center in Altoona ... District 6-AA champ Westmont Hilltop will face the District 3 third-place finisher at 1:30.
SINGLES: 1, Livermore, A, def. Turiano, 6-1, 6-2; 2, Lucas, A, def. Lanzel, 6-2, 6-2; 3, Ellis, H, def. Seidel, 6-2, 6-4.
DOUBLES: 1, Kustenbauder-Cardakli, H, def. Dixon-Hollingsworth, 6-2, 6-1; 2, Cobler-Pheasant, H, def. Letscher-Nagle
Records: Altoona (14-3); Hollidaysburg (18-0).