HERSHEY — It was the year of the Warrior. And it was a sophomore Methacton tennis player that led the way.
Mihaela Codreanu quietly led her team to a second place finish in the PIAA Class AAA team championship.
Then she came back to the Hershey Racquet Club on Friday and Saturday and did the same in the singles tournament. Codreanu knows how to pick herself up at a young age. She has done it time and time again throughout the season. However, with a motivated Marlys Bridgham making limited mistakes in the championship match, Codreanu fell 6-1, 6-4 to the Pine Richland senior and nationally-ranked player.
"I know she will be saying she made too many mistakes,' Warriors coach Cathy Miller said. "Against a kid like Bridgham you cannot because Marlys did not make many mistakes. But she was not going to quit. She has raised the level of the team. Michaela will find herself back here.'
Bridgham completely missed the PIAA tournament as a junior and was on a mission to medal, and for that medal to be gold. The District 7 runner-up knocked off defending state champion and District 1 champion Christina Kaiser (Plymouth-Whitemarsh) before knocking off Wissahickon's Maureen Devlin and eventually Codreanu.
"It is a credit to all of these girls training,' Wissahickon coach Mary Ellen Devlin said. "They work hard. Chrisite, Katherine, and Maureen, who have been here three of her four years — they know what to do.'
Devlin wound up taking fourth place and falling to District7 champ Callie Frey of Mount Lebanon. Frey, a senior, found herself in the third-place match after Codreanu rallied back from losing the first set 0-6 to win the next two 6-3, 7-6 and make her spot in the final well earned.
"I found a way to get through and I'm glad that I did,' Codreanu said. "If you find a weakness go for it and use your strength against their weakness. I just kept going. I am proud to be here and this was a great accomplishment.'
Codreanu also won her first two matches of the tournament both by 6-0, 6-0 scores easily making her first round PIAA exit as a freshman a distant memory. Losing to Kaiser in the district finals seemed to fuel Codreanu's fire.
"There is no give up in Michaela,' Miller said. "Kaiser raised her game and got her going. So much of all of this is mental. This kid is tested with the USTA. It has been a great run.'
Codreanu and the Warriors will head back to Eagleville with silver medals to show off but with a team chalked full of youngsters expect their presence to be felt in Hershey for a few more years to come. Codreanu's focus and hard work separates her from the great players. Like Bridgham this year, Codreanu will be motivated for the gold.
"I am happy to be here and happy the team did well,' Codreanu said. "Hopefully next year we will do the same.'
Also with a chance to return next season will be the Wissahickon tandem of Katherine Devlin and Christie Cesarini. The duo took third place in the Class AAA doubles tournament after beating Parkland's Jenna Peng and TuQuyen Pham 6-3, 6-4 on Saturday.
"When our serve is on we feel more comfortable in moving forward and finishing points,'Cesarini said. "The person at the net is there to close it out. That is our approach.'
The sophomore Devlin and junior Cesarini held serve all afternoon and earned a bronze medal. However, they were a few points away from beating Fox Chapel's Laurel Shymansky and Lacey Cohen (6-1, 1-6, 4-6) in the semifinal and getting a shot a doubles championship.
"They only lost to Fox Chapel by a couple points,' coach Devlin said. "I knew they were okay with any of the pairings. You have to serve well and they did.'
It is quite remarkable to see the Trojans return a year after having two doubles team reach the PIAA field, but be a different pairing. Last year the Devlin sisters played together and Cesarini played with Danielle Mustin. The chemistry on court showed how hard the girls worked all season to be in a position to make these deep postseason runs, runs not many ever get a chance to make.
"Just getting here was an accomplishment,' Katherine Devlin said. "But to finish top three in the state is pretty cool.'