BY RICHARD J. MARCUS
FOR THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
PETALUMA — In the final girls tennis match of the season Tuesday between the top two Sonoma County League teams, Analy and Petaluma, there was no shortage of drama or surprises as the regular season wrapped up.
Petaluma (11-2, 11-1), which won the first match between the teams 5-2, was undefeated in league coming into the match and could have won the SCL outright and been headed to the North Coast Section playoffs with a win.
Not so fast, Petaluma. Analy (13-3, 11-1) had other ideas. The visiting Tigers upset the Trojans, 5-2, resulting in a tie in the final standings and a co-championship for both teams.
In addition, Analy — not Petaluma — is slated as the SCL champion headed to NCS. The tiebreaker was a preseason number-drawing at a coaches’ meeting, won by Analy.
“In my 12 years coaching here, the SCL has never had co-champs,” Analy coach Rick Passero said. “This team has been the most fun I have coached in my career. They have completely supportive each other in every facet. It’s been a joy, and they are having fun and winning on top of that.”
It didn’t start out well for Analy, however, as the Tigers lost the first two singles matches.
In the No. 3 singles match, Morgan Intoschi of Petaluma defeated Analy’s Becca Graff, 6-2, 6-3. Moments later in the No. 2 singles match, the Trojans’ Nicoline Pedersen defeated the Tigers’ Caroline Schlutius, who was out sick for the teams’ first meeting. Leading 2-0, things looked good for the Trojans, who had exceeded preseason expectations.
“I was not expecting our team to be this good,” Pedersen said. “From the start of the season until the finish, we have all improved so much.”
Petaluma’s successful season followed the unexpected loss of beloved teacher and coach Sarah Wadsorth, who died of a brain aneurysm in February. The Trojans did not have a coach until a week before school started, when Scott Robertson took over.
“I’m really happy with the season we had, just not with the ending .<TH>.<TH>. Analy’s girls will represent the SCL well in the NCS,” Robertson said. “It’s obviously disappointing, but I’m really proud how the girls played all season.”
Trailing 2-0, the Tigers turned it around and won the final five matches for the win. The momentum changed radically after the Tigers won the final two singles matches.
“Last time Petaluma swept us in the singles and won the match right off the bat,” Passero said. “I know Petaluma is stronger in singles, so I was hoping to eke out one singles match and then we had a shot.”
In the No. 4 singles match, Analy’s Natalie Ambrosio defeated Petaluma’s Emma Morgan 7-6 (6), 6-4 to narrow the Petaluma lead. Analy tied the match at 2-2 in a huge upset in the No. 1 singles match. Petaluma’s previously undefeated sophomore Maddie Thomas, who had lost only one set the entire year, was defeated by the Tigers’ Amanda Broffman 2-6, 6-2, 6-1.
“After the first set, I started making sure to keep the balls in rather than going for winners,” Broffman said. “Our first match (Petaluma victory) I hadn’t played Maddie before so I didn’t know what to expect. This time I was expected to lose so I didn’t have as much pressure on me.”
After Broffman lost the first set, Passero said he went to a strategy of having Broffman hit balls soft and deep in order to slow down the speed on the balls from the hard-hitting Thomas.
“We didn’t give Maddie any fastballs to hit,” Passero said. “She wants to hit every ball hard and it’s hard to hit deep, soft balls and keep that pace on it.”
The strategy worked, and Thomas ended up playing to Broffman’s strength and losing her first match of the year.
“Today Amanda played the better game, good for her. She is an amazing player,” Thomas said. “Usually I can get myself out of situations but today I didn’t know what to do. I felt a lot of pressure and feel like I let my team down.”
With Analy splitting the singles matches, it was only a matter of time for the Tigers, who are stronger in doubles, to clinch the match. In fact, Analy swept the three doubles matches. As darkness blanketed the sky resulting in a chill in the air, Analy’s No. 2 doubles team of Kate Stewart-Alya Bohr finally clinched the win by defeating the Trojans Yannah Dranit-Courtney Jones 7-5, 6-1.