By Matt Parrino firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Gretchen Ringler and Jessica Robins were just happy to be at states.
After everything the North Tonawanda doubles tandem accomplished this season — both going 14-0 in singles play and a Niagara Frontier League doubles crown — Lady Jacks coach John LeMar said his two standouts were just excited to be amongst the best talent in the state at the NYS High School Championships in Latham from Nov. 1-4.
But after a first-round loss on Nov. 2 to a team that won the backdrop at states last year, Ringler and Robins won their first consolation match on Nov. 3, making them the only Section VI doubles team to earn a win at states. NT beat Donna Episcopio and Paula Faltynowicz of Section III’s St. Francis, 8-4 before falling, 8-6 in a tough quarterfinal match against Section IX Warwick’s Caroline Seeberg and Juliana Marcolini.
LeMar said that for Ringler and Robins, the first NT doubles team ever to earn a trip to states, winning a match at states is just icing on the cake of an outstanding season.
“If you thought the level of competition at sectionals was really high, the level at states was exceptionally high,” he said. “To win a match at states — it’s really difficult to do. … To win a match adds to their list of once-in-a-lifetime accomplishments.”
Heading into states LeMar said the girls didn’t know what to expect in terms of competition. After an intense regular season with the focus set on team goals, Robins and Ringler had to shift their mindset and get on the same page in doubles actions.
Both girls admitted before the NFL tournament that there is a distinct difference between playing singles and doubles, and they were working hard to get on the same page. But because they have been teammates and friends for so long, and judging by the outstanding results this postseason, the two were able to figure things out together.
“I think during the season they were focused on winning the title. They were focused on the team and they really wanted the title,” LeMar said. “They both worked hard to go undefeated, and in the NFL tournament they played well, and they had confidence in their abilities. When we went to sectionals I knew they had a good chance to be in the mix to go to the states, but they had to play three amazing matches to make it to states.
“In the second round they knocked out a team that went to states last year. Then they won a three and a half hour match in the finals — it wasn’t just the length that made the win impressive, but the level of play was outstanding. Sometimes in our league you just make another ball, but this was a much higher level.”
Ringler and Robins have made a habit of stepping up their games when the situation called for it, and they continued the trend at states. LeMar said he found the most fulfillment in how much the girls enjoyed their time playing this season. He said it couldn’t have happened to more hard-working and deserving tennis players.
“At the end of it they were so happy that it happened the way it did,” LeMar said. “They knew they were the first girls to make states from NT, and they’re friends so it meant a lot to them as teammates. It was a special thing, and this is my 23rd year coaching. … I was very happy for them.”Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.