PAWTUCKET — “It never gets old,” stated a clearly relieved Richard Lawrence moments after Mount St. Charles secured a spot in the Division I finals for the fourth consecutive season.
By no means was Thursday’s 4-3 semifinal triumph over La Salle a walk in the (Slater) Park. With the Mounties, seeded third, and the No. 2 Rams tied at 3-3 and the chance to advance to the championship hanging in the balance, MSC’s fourth singles, senior Lauren Porcaro, defeated her opponent in three sets, a win that solidified the all-important fourth team point.
“This was very high level tennis,” said Lawrence, whose Mounties will face defending state champion Bay View Saturday at 1 p.m. “It’s amazing what these kids have done, and this team (La Salle) was the only one we hadn’t beaten.”
“It never gets old,” said Porcaro about MSC returning to the finals. “Only more exciting.”
Asked what was swimming through her mind as she watched the return bid of La Salle’s Alyssa Ciccarone catch the bottom of the net, Porcaro could only smile. She was aware that the fate of the match rested in her hands, something that became abundantly clear as players, coaches and fans started to form a crowd near the fence.
“Anything could have happened, but I was grateful and relieved. It was a really good match,” said Porcaro. “I do notice (when you’re last match out there), but you can lose focus all together.”
Lawrence agreed that Porcaro’s 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win typified the back-and-forth nature of Mount’s tussle with La Salle.
“When she won that third point and everyone started to crowd around this court … oh my heavens, that’s a lot of pressure,” the head coach said. “We only had three players (returning) from last year’s team, so this was fairly new to Lauren. It wasn’t easy.”
There was a time when things looked bleak for the Mounties. The Rams took three of the first four matches, including No. 1 singles where senior Meryl Lawrence succumbed by 6-2, 6-4 scores. Meghan Lydon helped keep Mount afloat by making quick work of her opponent at No. 2 singles, cruising to the tune of 6-1, 6-0.
“She was very efficient,” said Lawrence about Lydon, a 2009 all-state selection.
Things started to look up for MSC when Jill Langin and Emily Cardosa posted a straight set win at No. 2 doubles.
“This was a team that’s played No. 3 all along and were very strong (in the recently completed singles and doubles tournament),” said Lawrence. “For them to come up and beat a very strong La Salle team is terrific.”
Things grew even tighter after Mount’s Katherine Porcaro, Lauren’s younger sister, and Chelsea Lee grinded out a three-set win.
“They won that first set (by a 6-4) and then that second set just came and went,” noted Lawrence about the 3-6 number that allowed La Salle’s Allison Smith and Mary Christy to force a do-or-die third game. “But Katherine and Chelsea were able to gather their composure and played some outstanding tennis to give us that third point.’
All eyes then shifted on the lone match remaining, as Lauren Porcaro and the Rams’ Alyssa Ciccarone became a must-see event. Players from Lincoln School and Bay View started to warm up as the fate of the first semifinal match of the day remained up in the air.
Thanks to Porcaro’s clutch play in the third game, the Mounties are back in the finals. MSC captured consecutive titles in 2007-08 before falling to Bay View last year.
“We’re in the position where we want to be, playing for the state championship. It’s great fun,” Lawrence said. “It should be a very tight match (come Saturday).”
“It’s very exciting,” added Porcaro. “We’re all pretty pumped to play.”