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  • Val T.

Culver Academy sweeps Rochester in sectional semis

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

CULVER — The Rochester girls tennis team’s sectional may now have six teams instead of four, but it is the host school that would still appear to be the most difficult to beat.

Rochester found that out firsthand when they lost to Culver Academy 5-0 in a Sectional 48 semifinal at the Gable Tennis Center Thursday.

Due to rain, the matches were held at Culver Academy’s indoor courts.

Rylee Clevenger was the only Rochester player to win a game, losing 6-0, 6-2 to Natalie Woo at No. 3 singles.

“R.J. is a great athlete, very conditioned very well,” Rochester acting coach Markis Smiley said. “She fought very hard. It went to deuce multiple times, and when that happens, that’s tough because the score doesn’t show it, but it was a hard-fought match.”

In the other singles matches, Ella McCarter lost to Meera Desai 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1, and Audrey Bolinger fell 6-0, 6-0 to Winnie Ma at No. 2.

Desai, a native of Winter Park, Fla., excelled with her all-around play.

“She was just a great athlete all-around,” Smiley said. “She knew how to place the ball, whether it was serving or forehands or backhands. She was just placing it the entire time, and there’s just nothing you could do about it at a certain point.”

In the doubles matches the senior duo of Taylor Howard and Chloe Nichols lost 6-0, 6-0 to Charlotte LeMieux and Paulina Tavarez at No. 1, and Gilli DeVilliers and Dani Ruiz Gonzalez beat Sophie McCall and Vivian Miller 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2.

Culver Academy was coming off a 5-0 win over Plymouth Wednesday in the quarterfinals. Plymouth, who won back-to-back sectionals in 2022-23 when they were in the Bremen sectional, did take a set at both No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles in that match.

Rochester was not as successful.

Smiley is in his second year on the coaching staff but took a more active coaching role this year due to head coach Adrian Paulik’s pregnancy. Paulik gave birth to a daughter Ripley Grace on May 2.

Paulik was at Culver Academy Thursday to observe the match, but Smiley coached the team during breaks.

“I showed up this year with an expectation,” Smiley said. “Last year, we were kind of figuring the girls out personally. This year, we showed up with a different mindset. I think from last year to this year, our girls have made so many improvements it’s like a whole different team, so just looking forward to next year.”

In the other semifinal, Triton beat Knox 5-0.

Culver Academy then beat Triton 5-0 on Friday for their sixth consecutive sectional title. Culver has not lost a sectional match since falling to Rochester in 2017.

Results: Culver Academy 5, Rochester 0

Singles

Meera Desai (CGA) def. Ella McCarter (RHS), 6-0, 6-0

Winnie Ma (CGA) def. Audrey Bolinger (RHS), 6-0, 6-0

Natalie Woo (CGA) def. Rylee Clevenger (RHS), 6-0, 6-2

Doubles

Charlotte LeMieux-Paulina Tavarez (CGA) def. Taylor Howard-Chloe Nichols (RHS), 6-0, 6-0

Gilli DeVilliers-Dani Ruiz Gonzalez (CGA) def. Sophie McCall-Vivian Miller (RHS), 6-0, 6-0


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