Clay girls tennis coach Walt Ralph knew going into the season that the Eagles would have a difficult time finishing ahead of Notre Dame Academy and St. Ursula Academy in the race for the Three Rivers Athletic Conference crown.
He was right, but the veteran Eagles came close. Notre Dame did, indeed, win the TRAC and SUA was second. Clay finished third in the conference and 13-6 overall.
The Eagles did have one Division I district tournament qualifier in Jennifer Belkofer. The junior, who played No. 3 singles this season, lost her first-round match to Hannah Pike on Wednesday at Bowling Green State University. Pike, who played first singles for Central Catholic, beat Belkofer 6-1, 6-4.
|Clay junior tennis player,
Jennifer Belkofer. (Press
photo by Ken Grosjean)
Belkofer, who lost in the TRAC finals to a rival from Notre Dame, finished the season with a 9-5 record.
“She’s had a remarkable season,” Ralph said. “She started the year against what I would call fairly heavy competition for that third singles spot and she worked her way to the head of that pack. She has gotten progressively better throughout the season and has played with tremendous confidence and ability. It’s been a fun ride for her.”
Clay’s No. 2 doubles team of seniors Kayla Durczynski and Cassie Hartkopf finished with 11 wins this season and also reached the TRAC finals.
“They had a similar story to Jennifer,” Ralph said. “We had some heated competition at that second doubles spot, but they inched their way to the forefront by the second week of the season. They complement each other really well. Cassie has some fluid ground strokes and plays with more aggressiveness from the baseline. Kayla is a fine net player with great instincts. When they’re on, they’re a lot of fun to watch.”
Juniors Taylor Daniel and Lily Mominee had a 3-1 record at second doubles, while the Eagles’ No. 1 doubles team of juniors Rachel Nelson and Jenn Lucas finished 8-6.
“Rachel and Jenn complemented each other nicely,” Ralph said. “Rachel has a steady game from the baseline and serving, and Jenn probably moves a little better at the net and is a little more aggressive. They jelled real well together as a team. They went in as the sixth seed in the (TRAC) tournament and they beat the third seed from Central right off the bat, which was terrific for us.”
Lisa Durrant played No. 1 singles for Clay this season. The senior finished with a 7-9 record.
“That was about right what we expected her to have at that spot,” Ralph said. “She went into the TRAC tournament as a fifth seed and lost to a girl from Fremont in the match for fourth place. She’s done a nice job for us. Her ability to play there helped us depth-wise at other spots in the lineup.”
Junior Emilie Roman, a No. 5 seed who finished third at the TRAC tournament, won eight of 13 matches at No. 2 singles this season.
“She had a great tournament for us,” Ralph said. “We graduated five singles players from last year, so we were a little worried how to fill in those spots. Emilie and Lisa have done a fine job. Emilie is real athletic player who moves nicely around the court and has a good, calm demeanor. She had a good year.”