Amherst’s Nicole McCann ousted in tennis state semifinals
After being virtually untouchable in her prior 25 matches this season, Am-herst Regional’s Nicole McCann knew she was in for a challenge in Saturday’s state tennis individual semifinals.
Playing in her second straight state semis, the junior knew that the person standing in her way of advancing to the next round this year was defending state champion Emma Davis of Cohasset.
“She’s probably the best player in Massachusetts,” McCann said. “I knew it was going to be a hard match.”
In the end, Davis was just too tough, defeating McCann 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 at St. John’s in Shrewsbury.
“She went out there and gave it everything she had,” coach CJ Holt said.
Davis went on to defend her title, defeating Jessica Perkins of Shrewsbury High School in the state finals 6-3, 6-3.
Despite the loss, Holt was impressed with his top singles players’ performance.
“I thought she played great,” he said. “She battled. There were some tough breaks that didn’t go her way, but she didn’t let anything rattle her.”
Trailing 5-1 in the first set, McCann fought off five straight set points and came all the way back force a tiebreaker, which she eventually lost.
“She was able to stay in the moment,” Holt said. “Most tennis players, even some professional tennis players, would look at a 5-1 deficit and just give up and start looking towards the next set. She fought hard and was able to stay focused and almost pulled it out. Sometimes it just doesn’t work out, though.”
McCann said, “I hadn’t been playing horribly up to that point. A lot of the games went to deuce and I just ended up losing them. So I concentrated on moving my feet more and focused on every individual point.”
McCann’s strategy for the match helped her climb her way back in to the set.
“I wanted to drive the ball deep and make her work hard for every point,” she said. Davis “is so good around the net, so I didn’t want to give her any easy points.”
“She played against a girl who can hit the ball really well, and hard,” Holt said. “Even when Nicole was in a defensive stance she was able to drive the ball deep into the corners and stopped (Davis) from finishing close to the net.”
McCann had trouble with her serve, uncharacteristic for the Amherst Regional senior.
“She double faulted more times in that match than she had all year,” Holt said. “In a match like that, you can’t give away free points.”
McCann said the issue began in the days leading up to the match.
“Last week in practice my toss was a little far to the right, and I think that carried over to the match,” McCann said. “It’s frustrating because your serve is the most controllable thing out there on the court.”
Holt did what he could to help McCann try to relax and focus.
“The unique thing about the state semis is that I’m allowed to be out on the court with her,” Holt said. “So I just did my best to try and calm her down. I tried to make her laugh, and have some fun.”
McCann will play in the USTA New England junior tournament this weekend at the University of Massachusetts, and hopes to bring some of the positive aspects from her semifinals game into the tournament.
“I’m in a good place now,” McCann said. “I’m hitting the ball well and I feel good. My goal is to get my serve in and play like I did this weekend.”
Holt believes McCann’s season up to this point has panned out the way he and McCann hoped it would.
“She’s accomplished everything she set out to do this season,” he said. “She led the team, stayed undefeated in the regular season, and faced her sister in the Western Mass. finals. She’s a classy player and knows how to handle herself in big moments.”