Jackets edge out Bears in close meet, 4-3
HIBBING — On Sept. 22, the Hibbing/Chisholm High School girls tennis team lost a tough 4-3 decision to Grand Rapids/Greenway.
Bluejacket coach Joe Rocco wasn’t very pleased with that result as his team lost a couple of three-set matches to the Thunderhawks.
After that match, Rocco let things sink in, then he had a heart-to-heart with his team.
Whatever he said must have worked as Hibbing/Chisholm has won its last four matches, including a 4-3 victory over Eveleth-Gilbert Thursday at the Lincoln Elementary School Courts.
What did Rocco have to say?
“It took awhile to figure out, ‘OK, what happened?’” Rocco said. “I was running it through my mind, ‘Did I have the right lineup? Did I have the right people in the right places? What was going on?’ ”
The Bluejackets were supposed to play in Coon Rapids the next day, but that match was cancelled due to weather.
That’s when Rocco got the chance to talk to his team.
“I wanted to keep the message simple,” Rocco said. “I told them to stay off of their heels, and get on your toes. The message today was was simple. If you’re trying to play it safe, you’re not safe.
“They have to step up and go for the shots when they have them. They’re doing that more, and I’ve seen better results. When you play safe, you’re letting opponents in the match. That’s what happened against Grand Rapids.”
His players took his words to heart.
The Bluejackets beat Forest Lake, Andover and Chisago Lakes last weekend, and now, a victory over a tough Golden Bears team that beat Virginia last week.
None of this has surprised Rocco.
“They’ve turned it on at the end when it’s the most important,” Rocco said. “I can’t say it’s quite surprising because this is what we expect from them. They’re starting to reach those expectations.
“They’re realizing it’s the end of the season. It’s that time of year where everything matters. The pressure is on, and they’re greatly responding. We played a really tough Eveleth team, and top to bottom, the girls were battling.”
Eveleth-Gilbert took a 1-0 lead when Cora Delich beat Molly Scipioni at first singles, 6-0, 6-1, but Hibbing/Chisholm tied it when Maria Gherardi and Kayley Marschalk beat Kallie Olson and Sidney Hill 6-2, 6-0 at third doubles.
Maddii Jankila made it 2-1 Golden Bears with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Lillian Rue at second singles, then Lilly Rewertz and Maddy Warner pulled out a three-set, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0 win over Paige Larsen and Ashley Kuopus at second doubles to make it 2-2.
Allie Bussey gave the Bluejackets a 3-2 lead with her 6-2, 6-2 victory over Kitana Honkala at fourth singles, which left first doubles and third singles on the court.
At third singles, Sara Hoag won the first set 6-3 over Anna Melicher, then Melicher came back to win the second set 6-3.
Melicher won the first point of the third set, but Hoag, who was a little under the weather, won the next six points to seal the deal for the Bluejackets.
“This is Sara’s time,” Rocco said. “In three of our last four matches, she’s been coming through with the big win for us. In two of those matches, she was the last match on the court. She calmly came right through.
“Today was much of the same thing.”
According to Rocco, Hoag plays a deliberate game, which works.
“She doesn’t change,” Rocco said. “She keeps coming at you with the same thing. It’s like novacaine — give it time, it’s going to work. It does. She doesn’t have a lot where things are going to go wrong in her game.
“Sitting on the other side of the fence watching the matches, you can have confidence in her. You know she’s not going to give in, and she’ll battle for every last point. That’s what it takes.”
In the first doubles match, Audrey Delich and Megan Larsen won the first set over Jordan Hyduke and Maria Valentini 7-5, but the Hibbing/Chisholm tandem came back to win the second set 6-4.
In the third set, Delich and Larsen had a 3-2 lead, then pulled away to win 6-2.
“This is a nice, old rivalry,” Rocco said. “I used to play against their coach (Dean Edstrom). It’s nice to have those rivalries. It’s friendly, but there’s still a competitiveness there. You always want to do your best.
“The girls sure did when the match was on the line.”
Hibbing/Chisholm 4, Eveleth-Gilbert 3
Singles: No. 1 — Cora Delich, EG, def. Molly Scipioni, 6-0, 6-1; No. 2 — Maddi Jankila, EG, def. Lillian Rue, 6-2, 6-4; No. 3 — Sara Hoag, HC, def. Anna Melicher, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; No. 4 — Allie Bussey, HC, def. Kitana Honkala, 6-2, 6-2.
Doubles: No. 1 — Audrey Delich-Megan Larsen, EG, def. Jordan Hyduke-Maria Valentini, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2; No. 2 — Lilly Rewertz-Maddy Warner, HC, def. Paige Larsen-Ashley Kuopus, 4-6, 6-2, 6-0; No. 3 — Maria Gherardi-Kayley Marschalk, HC, def. Kallie Olson-Sidney Hill, 6-2, 6-0.