PAWTUCKET — In the end, it came down to the first doubles match, and on this day, the Mount St. Charles senior tandem of Emily Cardosa and Julia Martin were not going to be denied.
Not after already losing three times this year to the East Greenwich team of Kerri Whelan and Julia Waicberg. And certainly not with Mount desperately needing them to win their match in order to capture Thursday afternoon’s Division I semifinal-round affair at Slater Park.
Tied at 3-3, Cardosa and Martin rose to the occasion and teamed up to grab a hard-fought 6-3, 6-4 victory over Whelan and Waicberg and lift the Mounties to a 4-3 win and a berth in Sunday’s 4 p.m. state championship match back at Slater opposite undefeated top-seed La Salle.
The triumph was the sixth in a row for the Mounties (11-3), and it sends them to the state finals for the ninth time in the last 11 years. Mount had won five of them (2002, ’04, ’05, ’07, and ’08), and now the program will try to seek the ninth title in its existence.
But in order for the third-seeded Mounties to extend their superb season three more days, they had to survive Thursday’s duel with a tough customer in the No. 2 seeded Avengers (11-2), who dealt MSC a 5-2 loss in their regular-season meeting back on Sept. 14.
“Our girls just had to play their hearts out and they did,” remarked Mount coach Marissa Pitrone-Marsh. “We faced them before, and we knew what to expect. (East Greenwich) is really a good team, but we just needed to be better.”
And no two players needed to play better more than Cardosa and Martin, who along with first singles standout Liz Foley, were recently named to the All-State team.
Not only did Cardosa and Martin lose to Whelan and Waicberg in a preseason match, but they suffered a 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 defeat to them in their Sept. 14 encounter, and in last week’s state doubles tournament, they were again victimized by the E.G. duo in three sets.
“We came out here today completely determined,” noted Cardosa, who along with Foley, is a repeat All-State selection. “We lost to them three times and we were so ready to get it back. Our team needed us today, so we were here for ourselves and for our team.”
The first doubles match might have been the most entertaining of the bunch, a back-and-forth tussle that saw neither team refusing to give an inch. But the key to the match, noted Pitrone-Marsh, may have been the superior net play of her players.
“I told them, ‘You need to come to the net and you need to be aggressive,” she admitted. “It was going to come down to winning points at the net and they did that. I’m just really proud of them. They were due, and they just went out there and got the job done.”
Speaking of getting the job done, that’s what Mount’s third doubles squad of Kate Foley and Meaghan Dubois did for the second afternoon in a row. As they did in Wednesday’s quarterfinal-round victory over Bay View, Foley and Dubois provided MSC with its first point of the day by beating E.G.’s team of Andrea Wollin and Samantha Land, 6-2, 6-3.
The Avengers took a 2-1 lead when Aleksandra Drljaca topped Liz Foley in first singles, 6-0, 6-1, and the second doubles team of Catherine Karbasiafshar and Emma Falkenberry defeated MSC’s Katelyn Gagnon and Kylie Finnerty, 6-3, 6-4, but Mount responded.
Tara Martin won her third singles match with a 6-3, 6-1 triumph over Elizabeth Blessing, and then Julie Marciniak put the Mounties one win away from putting away the Avengers by taking a 6-4, 7-5 thriller from Karleigh Caramango in fourth singles.
But minutes after Marciniak’s win, the Avengers’ Heather Shen tied the score in second singles by finishing off Jill Langin, 7-5, 6-2, and that set the stage for the dramatic finish in first doubles.
“I knew after the singles matches were done and (tournament director John Jasionowski) didn’t suspend play that it was down to our match,” recalled Cardosa. “Julia didn’t know, but I was like, ‘We just have to go out there. Our team is counting on us. We’ve got to do it this time.’ ”