ROTTERDAM — Deja vu took the form of a 4-0 set lead for Schenectady/Mohonasen’s Loren Cuomo on Tuesday.
The first time, she had some difficulty finishing the set, and after jumping out to a 4-0 lead again in the second, the Mohonasen senior didn’t let the difficult part happen again.
The top-seeded player in the tournament closed it out 6-0 to beat the No. 3, Guilderland junior Katrina Setchenkov, 6-3, 6-0 for the Section II girls’ individual tennis championship at Sportime.
Did we mention deja vu?
It was also the fourth Section II championship for Cuomo, who was in eighth grade when she won her first one, way back in 2017.
“The biggest difference is having that experience,” Cuomo said. “Now I’m the oldest one in the tournament, whereas before I was always the youngest and you’re going in with no pressure. When I was in eighth grade, I was like, ‘Oh, let’s just see what happens, slap some forehands around.'”
Cuomo admitted that she felt pressure to win on Tuesday, and if it was starting to get to her in the latter stages of the first set, she was able to recover.
Setchenkov broke Cuomo’s serve twice in a row to get within 5-2, then held her own serve for 5-3.
Then she got it to deuce in the next game, but Cuomo closed it out with a sharp backhand winner down the line.
“Honestly, I think the key was to stay loose,” Cuomo said. “I kept telling myself, ‘Stay loose, don’t think about the score.’ At one point it was 5-3, and I was like, ‘Zero-zero.’ I had to pretend like I just started the set. I was trying to serve it out and was feeling a little tight.
“It’s always scary, because you have people watching you, and you just have to close. Because tennis is such a head sport, it’s all mental. There were a couple ones, like you miss one of those forehands and you just want to hit yourself on the head.”
Up 5-0 in the second set, Cuomo was in jeopardy of having her serve broken, but she won four straight points, the last three of which were backhand winners.
The final was a rematch of the 2019 championship, but Cuomo, who said she tried to be more aggressive and finish points more quickly in the second set, had not played Setchenkov since then.
“I knew I had to start strong and not let it go in the second, because she’s definitely a come-from-behind player,” Cuomo said. “I kept winning key games, like at 3-0, that was a big one.
“You want to be pushed, and then you feel like you deserve the win more, if you have to work for it. She definitely pushed me a little bit on some of those long rallies. I wasn’t expecting an easy match. And even more pressure, for sure, being senior year. Imagine if I lose right here.”
Cuomo also drew occasional moments of inspiration from the adjacent court, where Niskayuna eighth-grader Jeevika Benki and seventh-grader Olivia Dartawan had their youthful ebullience on full display in the doubles championship against Bethlehem’s Anna Peles and Zara Patterson.
Skipping around between points and giving each other fierce multi-step palm slaps and shoulder bumps like baseball players after a home run, fifth-seeded Benki and Dartawan wasted a 4-3 lead in the first set to lose 6-4, but shook that off to win the next two, 6-0, 6-2, for the championship.
“If we missed a shot, we didn’t get hung up on that shot anymore,” Benki said. “In the first set, I know I was doing that. But then we kept hitting more consistent.”
“I think we just started believing in each other more, and we both were pumping each other up,” Dartawan said.
Besides finishing points to turn the match, the friends since first grade also finish each other’s sentences.
“We’re just middle schoolers, and winning sectionals, that’s pretty good …” Benki said. “… It’s fun, too,” Dartawan said.
“They’re so cute,” Cuomo said. “I was looking over and threw a little smile over every once in awhile. It’s fun to watch, for sure.”
In the consolation matches, Eugeong Choi of Niskayuna defeated Isabella Kaldy of Ballston Spa, 6-1, 7-6, and the Shaker doubles team of May Le and Faith Malo defeated Saratoga Springs’ Isabel Pecora and Madeline Siebeneck, 6-3, 6-2.