PHILADELPHIA - The frustration showed on Zaina Zaki's face as she was about to fall to Methacton's Mihaela Codreanu.
Zaki refused to quit on all the hard work she has put in during her four years at Unionville. It's not her style.
The senior battled hard in the final games, forcing six match points before falling to Codreanu 6-1, 6-3 in the District 1 Class AAA Semifinal at Legacy Youth Tennis and Education on Saturday. "(Mihaela) has been playing amazing lately,' Zaki said. "I thought I was playing well, but she was just coming up with one shot that was better.'
"Codreanu was playing lights out,' Unionville head coach Janet Johnston said. "She was absolutely flawless and made very few errors. She had a tight forehand angle that was unbelievable. Zaina played one of the top players in the state quite well.'
Despite the loss to Codreanu, Zaki will represent the Ches-Mont League as the only player to qualify for the PIAA Tournament, which will be held at Hershey in November. She qualified for states with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Owen J. Roberts freshman Meredith Lee in her quarterfinal match earlier in the day.
The match was one of Zaki's finest performances of the season. Using fierce rallies on the break, Zaki turned a possible upset into a straight set win.
Zaki dropped the first game in the first set before rallying to win five consecutive games and take a 5-1 lead. Lee responded with two straight wins to cut the lead to 5-3 holding serve.
The freshman led 40-30 in the ninth game before Zaki rallied for three straight break points to steal the game and win the first set.
Zaki continued to rally in the second set. Aided by her commanding serve, she erased a 2-1 deficit to take a 5-4 lead with a chance to clinch the match on break point.
Lee had a double fault on the first match point, giving Zaki the win and another trip to Hershey. Zaki played into the freshman's hands with a solid return game to go with a strong serve.
"(Meredith) did well for being a freshman in this game,' Zaki said. "But I've been used to this stage so that definitely played to my advantage.'
Conestoga senior Robyn Ferraro entered the day with a chance to clinch a state playoff berth as well, but the only player standing in her way was Codreanu.
Codreanu controlled the match from start to finish as she did not drop a game in 6-0, 6-0 win over Ferraro, who made her first District 1-AAA appearance.
"I played with a little bit more frustration than I usually do,' Ferraro said. "Knowing I was that close to states, I put some pressure on myself. I did want to go, but glad (Codreanu) could if I couldn't. She'll put up a good fight for everyone else as well.'
"Robyn had nothing to lose today as the lower seed,' Conestoga head coach Fran Tomaselli said. "There was no pressure on her and she could play freely, but I think she felt some pressure because it was her senior year and her last shot to make (states). She has all the tools necessary to succeed, but we just need to install some more confidence in her.'
Ferraro competed for Southern Lehigh and qualified for states in her freshman and sophomore years before an injury forced her to miss her junior season. She arrived at Conestoga and immediately made an impact for the Pioneers at the No. 1 spot while catching the eye of her fellow players.
"She loves the team aspect of the game and my girls have accepted her as one of their own even with it being her first and only year here,' Tomaselli said. "It speaks a lot of volumes for some of our girls to come here today and support Robyn in this tournament. This showed how much Robyn has meant to our team this year.'
Zaki and Ferraro will have a quick turnaround as they focus for the District 1-AAA team tournament, which begins Monday. Conestoga enters the tournament as the No. 1 seed while Unionville is No. 2.
Zaki will complete the District 1-AAA Tournament on October 23 as she will face Wissahickon's Maureen Devlin in the third-place match, which determines seeding for states.
Johnson believes the sky is the limit for Zaki once she gets to Hershey.
"At this time of year, Zaina has worked really hard focusing on her tennis and prepping for the next phase of her life,' Johnston said. "With this break between districts and states, she'll be ready to play her game.'
District 1 Class AAA Championships
At Legacy Youth Tennis and Education, Philadelphia
Quarterfinals (winners qualify for PIAA tournament)
1 Cristina Kaiser (Plymouth-Whitemarsh) def. 8 Katherine Devlin (Wissahickon) 6-3, 4-3 (ret.).
5 Maureen Devlin (Wissahickon) def. 4 Amanda Cyr (Central Bucks West) 6-3, 7-6 (7-0).
3 Mihaela Codreanu (Methacton) def. 6 Robyn Ferraro (Conestoga) 6-0, 6-0.
2 Zaina Zaki (Unionville) def. 10 Meredith Lee (Owen J. Roberts) 6-3, 6-4.
Kaiser def. M. Devlin 7-5, 6-1.
Codreanu def. Zaki 6-1, 6-3.
Wed. October 23
Kaiser vs. Codreanu
Wed. October 23
Zaki vs. M. Devlin