By Jon Gremmels Herald Sports Editor
The Clinton Herald
---- — ELDRIDGE — Pressure intensified as Gabby Haan and Jordan Nelson started play for the No. 2 doubles title Tuesday afternoon at the Mississippi Athletic Conference girls tennis meet.
Their Clinton High team needed just one more win to clinch a second consecutive team title. But to both their right and left were doubles team from Bettendorf, the school that has battled Clinton for MAC supremacy the past three decades and had been on the Queens’ heels the whole tournament.
Across the court stood two imposing figures from Davenport Assumption, which had thrust itself into the title picture by winning three singles titles earlier in the afternoon. And the Knights’ 6-foot-2 Hailey Schneden and 5-10 Kate Fennelly were no strangers to playing in the spotlight, both starters on Assumption’s basketball team that won a third consecutive state title this winter.
Their presences didn’t bother Nelson and Haan, though. Even after Bettendorf won at No. 1 doubles to pull within a half-point of Clinton, the CHS juniors remained confident.
“It was kind of pressure, but once we got the hang of it we were OK,” Nelson said. “After we went up 4-1 in the first set, we knew we had it.”
Haan said: “Since we beat them in a dual, we felt we could beat them. That one went to a tiebreaker, and it probably shouldn’t have.”
Nelson and Haan showed they were right not to worry. And, after the 6-2, 6-2 victory clinched the No. 2 title, Shannon Shovlain and Samantha Brisch combined to win the No. 3 doubles title in a super tiebreaker and tack on an extra point for Clinton,
“It was a battle the whole way through,” Clinton coach Cindy Rasche said. “It will make us tougher mentally before we see them in the regionals.”
The River Queens finished with 19.5 points, while Bettendorf had 17 and Assumption got 16.5.
In addition to the two doubles titles, Clinton claimed singles titles at No. 2 (senior Rubina Vidal) and No. 5 (Haan).
“I like playing doubles better, but singles went well, too,” Haan said.
“The key was No. 2 doubles,” Rasche said. “To take Assumption out of it -- they were coming right in the back door.”
For a team that took fourth in the state a year ago and had to replace three state placewinners from that squad, Tuesday’s crown was a special accomplishment.
“It means a lot,” Nelson said. “The past couple of years we’ve been first or second in the MAC, and we wanted to keep it up.”
Some rebuilding had to take place to do it.
Junior Griffin Rasche, who beat Emma Shie of Davenport Central 8-4 for third place in singles, returned at No. 1 singles, but coach Rasche had to replace the next three girls in the lineup. That meant more would be expected from Vidal and Haan, the other two returning starters; Nelson and Shovlain, who moved up from the junior varsity; and Brisch, a freshman.
“When we lost three seniors, I thought we’d not be at the top, but the new people played really hard. It’s really big,” Vidal said.
“We knew we had to step up, all of us, especially Sam, the freshman,” Nelson said.
All Brisch did was step into the No. 4 singles spot and take second in the conference. Fennelly beat her in a super tiebreaker 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (6) for first place.
“I wasn’t sure how it would end up (this season), but I’m proud of myself,” Brisch said.
Nelson and Shovlain also were pleased with the way they elevated their games.
“To be honest, yes,” Nelson said when asked if she was surprised by how well she’s played this season. “Last year, I was 10th; this year I’ve been second, then third. It’s a whole different thing.”
Shovlain said last year’s seniors were a good group to follow.
“I watched the seniors last year and saw what to do,” she said. “Cindy has been telling us for a long time we’d need to step up. For me, it was a big change from JV to varsity. I thought it would be a big difference. I guess I just stepped up my level of play.”
She and Brisch stepped up in a tough moment Tuesday, too. Forced to play a super tiebreaker after splitting the first two sets with Bettendorf for the No. 3 doubles title, the Queens watched a 4-2 lead turn into a Bettendorf lead, then a tie at 8 before they pulled out the final two points.
“We wanted to finish strong,” Shovlain said. “We had to refocus ourselves.”
Clinton’s two singles champions had it a bit easier. But both beat Bettendorf players in the finals, so their wins were huge.
Haan defeated Penny Constantinou 6-2, 6-3 at No. 5.
“I feel like since I won in singles, I’m more a part of it,” Haan said, comparing this year’s title with last year’s.
Vidal, who played No. 5 last year and No. 3 most of this season, defeated Dana Waterman of Bettendorf 6-3, 6-3 in the final at No. 2.
“I think what really helped was when I had short balls, I approached the net and put them away,” Vidal said.
MISSISSIPPI ATHLETIC CONFERENCE MEET
1. Clinton 19.5; 2. Bettendorf 17; 3. Davenport Assumption 16.5; 4. Pleasant Valley 11.5; 5. Davenport Central 3.5; 6. Muscatine 2.5; 7. (tie) Burlington, North Scott 2; 9. Davenport North 1; 10. Davenport West .5.
No. 1 singles
Championship -- Katie Melbourne (PV) def. Haley Resnick (DA) 6-1, 6-3. Third place -- Griffin Rasche (Clin) def. Emma Shie (DC) 8-4.
No. 2 singles
Championship -- Rubina Vidal (Clin) def. Dana Waterman (Bet) 6-3, 6-3. Third place -- Jamie White (DA) def. Sarah Huber (PV) 8-3.
No. 3 singles
Championship -- Haley Bankson (Bet) def. Jordan Nelson (Clin) 6-4, 6-1. Third place -- Hailey Schneden (DA) def. Stephanie Bramer (PV) 8-2.
No. 4 singles
Championship -- Kate Fennelly (DA) def. Samantha Brisch (Clin) 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (6). Third place -- Hannah Bankson (Bet) def. Gina Chieffo (PV) 8-0.
No. 5 singles
Championship -- Gabby Haan (Clin) def. Penny Constantinou (Bet) 6-2, 6-3. Third place -- Gwen Kwan (PV) def. Claire Honsey (DC) 8-4.
No. 6 singles
Championship -- Christine Rohlf (DA) def. Lolly Telleen (Bet) 6-2, 6-3. Third place -- Sahiba Borisuth (PV) def. Sydney Stoker (NS) 8-5.
No. 1 doubles
Championship -- Ali Grampp/Waterman (Bet) def. Rasche/Vidal (Clin) 6-3, 6-3. Third place -- Resnick/White (DA) def. Melbourne/Huber (PV) 8-4.
No. 2 doubles
Championship -- Nelson/Haan (Clin) def. Schneden/Fennelly (DA_ 6-2, 6-2. Third place -- Hannah Bankson/Constantinou (Bet) def. Bramer/Kwan (PV) 8-1.
No. 3 doubles
Championship -- Shannon Shovlain/Brisch (Clin) def. Haley Bankson/Telleen (Bet) 6-3, 1-6, 1-0 (8), Third place -- Mary Kate O’Donnell/Rohlf (DA) def. Chioffo/Crawford (PV) 8-5.