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Amherst junior Nicole McCann takes aim at state tennis title

Nicole McCann, of Amherst, begins her quest for a state individual title Saturday. McCann will play Emma Davis, of Cohasset, in the semifinal round at St. John's of Shrewsbury.

Nicole McCann, of Amherst, begins her quest for a state individual title Saturday. McCann will play Emma Davis, of Cohasset, in the semifinal round at St. John's of Shrewsbury. Purchase photo reprints »

Amherst Regional junior Nicole McCann has been handed the challenge of knocking off Cohasset’s Emma Davis.

In her second straight trip to the state girls tennis individual tournament semifinals, McCann will face the defending state champion.

The match is at 9 a.m. Saturday at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury. Denny LaMachia, of Hopkinton, will face Jessica Perkins, of Shrewsbury, in the other semifinal. The championship round will be held at approximately 1 p.m. Saturday. McCann has never reached the state finals.

“I’m not going to think about the match, I want to play the game point by point,” McCann said.

This is the first time McCann is playing Davis at any level, but the Hurricane has seen her play.

“She has a tough opponent and it’s going to be a great challenge, but Nicole knows what she has to do” Amherst coach CJ Holt said.

McCann felt that they share a similar style of play. Davis and McCann like to play to their strengths on the baseline, but McCann has other plans Saturday.

“If I want to do well, I’m going to have to mix up my game, more spinning the ball, drop shots and lobs,” McCann said.

Holt agreed with the plan. “Nicole can’t get into long baseline rallies,” he said. “It is not going to be the way to beat her.”

McCann also said Davis is extremely consistent returning the ball, so she must be willing to fight off Davis’ hard returns to be successful.

McCann has also worked on attacking the net and putting more aggression into her returns during practice.

As the underdog, McCann said the match will be tough, but she was optimistic about the outcome if she followed through with the game plan.

“I am not as nervous going into the game because I have nothing to lose,” McCann said.

McCann cruised to a 25-0 record during the regular season. She positioned herself in the state tournament after dominating the Western Massachusetts Individuals Tournament last month. She later helped bring the Hurricanes to a fifth straight Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament final, but the team came up short in a 3-2 loss to Longmeadow.

Last season, McCann fell 6-4, 6-1 to Julia Cancio from Concord-Carlisle High School in the semifinals.

“This year she knows what to expect with the atmosphere and level of play,” Holt said.

NOTE: If the match is postponed due to weather, it will be held Sunday at 9 a.m. at St. John’s.

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