Nicole McCann of Amherst beats sister Allison to win tennis title
Jane Keyes Ames
Nicole McCann, of Amherst Regional, returns a shot Saturday during the Western Massachusetts Individual Tennis Tournament at West Springfield. McCann defeated her sister, Allison, on Sunday to win her second straight championship.
Jane Keyes Ames
Nicole McCann, of Amherst Regional, returns a shot Saturday during the Western Massachusetts Individual Tennis Tournament at West Springfield. McCann defeated her sister, Allison, on Sunday to win her second straight championship. Story, Page D1.
Jane Keyes Ames
Allison McCann, of Amherst Regional, returns a shot Saturday during the Western Massachusetts Individual Tennis Tournament at West Springfield. McCann lost to her sister, Nicole, on Sunday in the championship match.
WEST SPRINGFIELD — When the seedings for the Western Massachusetts Individual Girls Tennis Tournament were released, it didn’t take much effort to trace the brackets and project the most likely championship round matchup. And it didn’t take much effort to envision the excitement surrounding that inevitable clash, either.
Amherst Regional sisters Nicole and Allison McCann made good on that potential Sunday, as Nicole held off her younger sibling 6-2, 6-4 to claim her second consecutive sectional title and the Hurricanes’ fifth in a row.
Nicole McCann defeated former Amherst standout Maya Hart in last year’s final and also reached the championship against Hart in 2011.
With her five tournament victories, McCann improved to 16-0 while qualifying for a berth in the state individual tournament, which is scheduled for June 15 at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury.
“It’s exciting,” said Nicole, a junior and the tournament’s No. 1 seed. “I’m excited to play in states, I really wanted to play states this year. It doesn’t feel quite the same (as last year), playing Allison and winning, but it still feels good.”
Though the eventual matchup of the McCanns seemed all but predetermined, Amherst coach C.J. Holt said before the match that the final outcome might be more of a toss up, as he felt either sister could defeat the other on any given day.
“You know, it’s something I’ve seen quite a bit with them playing at practice,” Holt said. “It’s not the same intensity, but they go hard at each other at practice and they’re competitive kids and they’re always working. This one had a little more meaning to it, I suppose, but I didn’t see much difference.”
Allison McCann, a freshman and now 17-1 on the season, agreed that the match had a familiar, practice-like feel to it, saying that even with the added weight of a sectional championship on the line, the stage wasn’t too big.
“I had a lot of fun playing Nicole,” said Allison, the No. 2 seed. “I mean, we’ve played so many times that it wasn’t that different. I mean, obviously, it was different with everyone watching, but it was fun and I feel like I did well. And she played really well.”
Though much less experienced when it came to high-pressure matches, the younger McCann gave her sister as much as she could handle in the championship round. Both said it was the most competitive match they had played yet this year.
“I had to work hard for every point, because she doesn’t give points away, she gets everything back,” Nicole said. “I lost six games (to Allison), that’s the most I’ve lost so far. It was a tough match.”
After exchanging a pair of games early in the first set, Nicole McCann broke her sister’s serve to take a 3-2 lead and never looked back, stringing together three more victories to take the set 6-2.
Allison hung within striking distance for much of the second set, as well, but again it was a service break that sealed her fate. Tied 3-3 and with an opportunity for Allison to take back momentum and force a third set, Nicole rallied to go up another break, before opening a 5-3 lead.
Allison McCann fought back to take another service, but by that point her older sister pulled away.
“It was definitely frustrating at some points,” Allison said. “She had a lot of good drop shots and drop shots are always hard to go get. So, she did well on her part.”
For Holt, it’s never easy watching two of his own stars go head-to-head knowing a deserving player is going to walk away disappointed. But he said he’s getting more used to it after three straight years of an all-Hurricane western Mass. final.
“I’m always happy for one and disappointed for the other, but as long as they know they gave it their best, that’s really all that matters,” he said. “It’s easier to lose to someone you have a lot of respect for. And clearly, the last three years, that’s been the case with teammates that are really close and, in this case, sisters.”
Both McCanns felt the experience would be valuable moving forward into future tournaments, including the sectional team tournament, which starts May 31.
“It was really good practice for playing in big matches like this,” Allison said. “Other high school matches, they’re good practice too, but since this was western Mass. it was definitely fun.”
“I think that I have more confidence,” Nicole added, “and I’ll take that into states with me.”
Nicole McCann beat Kelsey Jordan of Ludlow and Sabis’ Ashley Lewis on Saturday to advance to Sunday’s semifinal, where she beat Lisa Calcasola of Longmeadow.
Allison McCann beat Monument’s Courtney Freedman and Longmeadow’s Rachel Korn on Saturday, then beat Longmeadow’s Suzanne Elfman in Sunday’s semifinal.
Elfman beat Northampton’s Phoebe Gelbard on Saturday to reach the quarterfinals.
In doubles action, No. 2 seed Amutha Muthukumar and Samantha Doctor of Amherst fell to No. 7 Anna Manzi and Katherine Weyant of Minnechaug 7-6 (2), 7-5 in the quarterfinals on Saturday.
Northampton’s doubles pair of Olivia Bernstein and Katherine Lesko fell to top seed and eventual champs Hannah Epstein and Ashley Toebes of Longmeadow in the semifinals on Saturday.