EASTTOWN - In high school tennis, every match is crucial even if some of the matches are not as high-profile as others.
But at the Upper Main Line YMCA Monday, the No. 2 doubles match took front and center on the far courts in the District 1 Class AAA semifinal between Conestoga and West Chester Henderson.
A win in this match would send the top-seeded Pioneers to the championship, while a win for the fifth-seeded Warriors would keep their underdog run alive.
The entire Conestoga team knew what was at stake, except for Kaya Michel and Lindsey Taaffe, the two participating in the match. The girls were as calm as the wind on this sunny, fall afternoon.
Michel and Taaffe's calm demeanor paid off as they survived a tiebreaker in the first set to defeat Henderson's Tory Gasho and Brynn Jones 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 to send Conestoga to the District 1 Class AAA championship match in a 4-1 win over the Warriors.
Conestoga will face Methacton today for the title at 2:45 p.m. at Downingtown West.
Michel and Taaffe were just focused on the task at hand, which was to win their match.
"(Lindsey) and I were so into our match that it was hard to notice anything,' Michel said. "Everything just went down our way in the end and we were just happy to win.'
"We're on a good streak right now,' Taaffe said. "It's an honor to play with Lindsey and be on this team. We're just trying to play our best.'
October is slowly becoming a great month for Conestoga, especially if Robyn Ferraro and Lauren Banner keep playing at the stratospheric level they've been accustomed to during the month.
The two seniors have been strong all season long in singles play for the Pioneers (19-0) and gave the team two huge wins against two of the top players in the Ches-Mont League National Division.
Ferraro used her power game to counteract the finesse style of Henderson's Emma Clark in a 6-0, 6-0 win over the freshman in No. 1 singles.
Clark has been one of the area's most-improved players since the season began in August, but Ferraro used a strong serve coupled with an accurate return to win the match in 41 minutes.
"(Emma) struggled with my power, but she really handled my shots well,' Ferraro said. "She had a lot of good rallies and had me running around a bit. I got a good match from her.'
Banner used long rallies and limited the unforced errors in defeating Annelise Couderc 6-3, 6-1 in straight sets. She used the same approach to the match that she has been using in all the big matches throughout her four years at Conestoga.
"I'm going to go out and try to win because this is the farthest we've ever gone in districts since I've played here,' Banner said. "I want to do the best for my team.'
Katie Gergel won the lone match for Henderson, a 6-3, 6-4 win over Lipika Gadila in No. 3 singles.
The Warriors (14-3) had nothing to lose as the underdog on this day and kept their heads held high in spite of defeat. Head coach Peter Sok complimented his young team for their hard-fought play throughout the match.
"I'm very pleased with the way the kids are playing right now and everyone is giving their best effort,' Sok said. "As a coach, you can't be upset. If we continue to play the way we're capable of playing, who knows what can happen from this point.'
W.C. Henderson will head to the third-place match and face rival Unionville at Downingtown West High School Thursday. The second-seeded Indians were defeated by third-seeded Methacton in the other semifinal match.
Meanwhile, Conestoga will play for the school's first district title today. Ferraro is looking forward to the championship and a rematch with Mihaela Codreanu, who defeated her in the District 1 Class AAA singles quarterfinals two weeks ago.
"(Mihaela's) a very good player and I'm excited to play her again,' Ferraro said. "The final will be really exciting and fun. We're looking forward to it.'
Conestoga head coach Fran Tomaselli is glad her team has the opportunity to bring home the district title. She has waited 37 years to win a district championship and is just one win away from her team becoming the best District 1 has to offer.
"I couldn't be prouder of this team,' Tomaselli said. "This is a great group of girls to coach and many of us have been together for four years. It's nice to see them have this opportunity again and hopefully we can win it this time.'
Conestoga 4, W.C. Henderson 1
1. Ferraro(C) def. Clark 6-0, 6-0; 2. Banner (C) def. Couderc 6-3, 6-1; 3. Gergel (WCH) def. Gadila 6-3, 6-4.
1. Yan-Ge (C) def. Baxter-Rodgers 6-1, 7-5; 2. Michel-Taaffe (C) def. Gasho-Jones 7-6 (3), 6-3.