By Anthony Mitchell
For The Daily Item
DANVILLE -- Barring a sweep of the three singles matches by one team, most high school matches will be decided by the play of the two doubles teams. That was the case Wednesday afternoon for Danville, as the Ironmen claimed both doubles matches in straight sets to earn a 3-2 victory over Milton in a Heartland Athletic Conference-Division I match.
Danville (1-0) freshmen Linda Yang and Alika Lopatka took early leads in both sets en route to a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Milton's Julia Spear and Jenna Bowersox that proved to be the victory-clinching point. Although both players spent extensive hours in the off-season honing their game, according to Danville coach Mary Jo Baum, the match was the first time the two newcomers had been paired together in competition. The pair used the strong serving of Yang along with consistent net play from Lopatka to earn the doubles point.
Baum said that Yang and Lopatka understand when to play near the net and when to allow the other player to hit the ball, allowing them play well together.
"They know how to move as partners," said Baum.
After a tight first set in the second doubles match, Danville's Christina Murphy and Savannah Doss stifled Hunter Metzger and Alaina Houtz in the second to close out a 6-4, 6-0 win. The pair took a 3-1 lead in the first set before halving the next six games to grab the first set. Murphy and Doss closed the match on a tear, without dropping a game in the second set.
In singles play, Megan Rudloff defeated Kiona Robbins, 7-5, 6-1 at first singles. The two players battled in a tight first set where neither player was able to pull ahead until the final changeover of the set. With a 6-5 lead, Rudloff held serve to take the opening set. Rudloff took a 4-1 lead in the second set before closing out the match with a break of serve. Milton (0-2) coach Aaron Slusser said that Rudloff remains composed in any situation on court.
"I just knew that I pulled out the first set and I knew I had to come back stronger in the second," said Rudloff.
Katharine Baum won a straight-sets duel at No. 2 singles for Danville, 6-4, 6-2. Baum jumped out to a 4-1 advantage in the first set. Milton's Dana Kyle closed the gap to 4-3 before Baum closed out the set. Dictating the pace of each point and moving the ball around the court, Baum won five of the final six games to seal the victory on a forehand error from Kyle.
"(Katharine) is just very consistent," said Mary Jo Baum. "She stays with it. She's very athletic."
Slusser noted that Baum changed the direction of the ball well and put spin on the ball.
Baum said that opening at home was an advantage to the Danville players and played a role in their victory.
Milton's Leah Tillinghast grabbed a straight-sets victory at third singles over Maura Brady of Danville, 6-4, 6-1. Tillinghast won three straight games after the first set was deadlocked at two before taking a one-set lead. Tillinghast quickly finished the match, dropping one game in the second set for the win.
"(Tillinghast's) doing well," said Slusser.
Slusser said that the Black Panthers are a better team than their play showed.