Blair County high schools made a clean sweep of the District 6 tennis doubles championships Saturday at the Leopold Center.
Marissa Lanzel and Susie Ellis captured the Class AAA crown with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Alyssa Kustenbauder and Nur Cardakli in an all-Hollidaysburg final.
Ana Hollen and Keturah Weaver, representing the co-op team of Tyrone and Bellwood-Antis, earned the Class AA title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Westmont Hilltop's Bethany Carney and Hannah Gleason.
Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski
Hollidaysburg’s Marissa Lanzel (left) and Susie Ellis laugh.
Lanzel was runner-up in the District 6-AAA singles a week ago and teamed with Ellis to finish second in the 6-AAA doubles two years ago.
"We play and practice together all the time," Lanzel said. "We've been doubles partners for the past three years."
When Mariah Turiano, the district singles champ a year ago, went down with a wrist injury this fall, Lanzel moved into the No. 1 position at Hollidaysburg and Ellis jumped to No. 2. That also made them the Lady Tigers' No. 1 doubles duo and gave them an opportunity to finish something they failed to do two years ago.
"It was nice to win this time," Lanzel said.
"Going from singles to doubles can be difficult," Lanzel noted, "because it's a whole different game plan."
Having a familiar partner, like Ellis, made it easier, even though they were going against teammates.
"We practice against them [Kustenbauder and Cardakli] all the time so it's real hard to play against them," Ellis said. "We go against them every day, and they're a great team.
"We know they're strengths and weaknesses, and they know ours, so it's difficult."
Although there was no pressure on him, coach Brian Denis said it was sometimes "brutal" to watch his two teams go at each other yesterday.
"It's hard not to coach either one or both," he said. "I think they struggled a little because they compete against each other every day. They're all great kids and it's hard knowing one of them is going to lose.
"However, I couldn't be happier to have all four kids in the finals," he said. "We stress doubles and always seem to have good doubles teams so I'm happy for all of them."
While Hollidaysburg has been a fixture in District 6 play, Tyrone coach Mike Hample wasn't sure if the Eagles had ever won a district tennis title.
"If they did, it was a long time ago," Hample said. "I can't remember any so this is a great win for these girls."
Hollen is a sophomore at Bellwood-Antis and Weaver is a senior at Tyrone.
"Both girls are baseline players," Hample noted, "but we've worked very hard, particularly the last couple of weeks, to develop their net game.
"They compliment each other at the net and they both have great baseline shots ... they keep it deep," he said.
Hample said the Tyrone-Bellwood-Antis combination has worked well. He said last year's squad had more girls from Tyrone but noted Bellwood outnumbers Tyrone, 5-3, this fall.
"They all work really well together," he said. "It's a real team."
Hollen and Weaver certainly work well together.
"We were No. 1 coming in so we were confident," said Hollen, who was singles runner-up last week. "I love playing doubles."
"Ana is a great partner," said a beaming Weaver. "I couldn't ask for a better one."
"This [victory] is a great start for our program," Hollen said.
"I knew we could do it," Weaver said, "and next year's team should be something special."
Weaver noted that she and Hollen had only played together "three or four times all season."
"We're usually split up so we can win the team so it was a little hard for us, but we got through it and succeeded," Weaver said.
"We had great chemistry," Hollen added.