Tennis stars collide

Canterbury's Leah Barnes takes on Homestead's Kelsey Vessels in a match May 1, 2013.

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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Homestead’s Hanita Epstein retuns a shot against Canterbury’s Chelsea Himes during the No. 2 singles match.

Spartans fight back to down Cavaliers

– Players from the Homestead and Canterbury girls tennis teams gave a lesson in resiliency in the Spartans’ 3-2 victory Wednesday.

The victory at Canterbury came down to the match at No. 2 doubles, where Andrea Stephens and Leah Rumancik dropped the second set but didn’t lose a game in the third.

They won 6-3, 2-6, 6-0 against Cathy O’Malley and Selena Savelieff.

“We got excited after winning the first set, but then we kind of lost our focus in the second set,” Stephens said.

“After we split sets, we really had to calm ourselves down and make sure we got the third set. We had to calm down and get our shots.”

The Spartans improved to 6-0 in dual matches. The Cavaliers fell to 5-5.

“The season’s been going well, and we’ve all been working on improving with all new doubles teams this year,” Stephens said.

It looked like the Cavaliers would deal the Spartans the loss.

At No. 1 singles, Canterbury’s Leah Barnes beat Kelsey Vessels 6-1, 6-2 in a hard-hitting match.

But it wasn’t always easy for Barnes, who was feeling ill and shots she normally excels at were sailing just past the lines.

“I wasn’t feeling very good after having too much pizza before going out there,” Barnes said. “But I was feeling my forehand more than usual and that was good, I guess. … (Vessels) had a very good serve. She hit multiple serves to where I struggled to get the ball back, and her backhand was very good.”

The Cavaliers also got the No. 2 singles victory – Chelsea Himes defeated Hanita Epstein 6-4, 6-1 – but from there it was all Spartans.

At No. 3 singles, Mary Rajchel won 6-1, 6-4 over Ava Van Helfteren, who proved difficult to dispatch the longer the match went on.

And at No. 1 doubles, Alison Overlander and Jenay Andrews defeated Jaclyn Sider and Georgia Lea Williams 6-2, 6-2.

Despite being rivals, there was a moment of togetherness before the match, when players from both teams donned “Together Smashing Cancer, Homestead and Canterbury” T-shirts to promote awareness, which hit home since longtime Homestead coach Jim Clark died from it in 2012.

“We put on the cancer T-shirts together – we’re smashing cancer – and we acknowledged all the seniors that were on the team,” Barnes said.