Schenectady

Holy Names’ Schmitz outduels Setchenkov in tiebreaker to win Section II girls’ tennis title

Riley Schmitz of Holy Names returns a shot to Guilderland's Katrina Setchenkov during the Section II girls' singles  championship match at Sportime on Tuesday.
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Riley Schmitz of Holy Names returns a shot to Guilderland's Katrina Setchenkov during the Section II girls' singles  championship match at Sportime on Tuesday.

SCHENECTADY – When it comes to tennis, Riley Schmitz’s long-term memory is populated by her three siblings, as well as her father and grandfather, so it goes way back.

But never mind that, for now.

The sophomore from Holy Names was down 3-1 to Guilderland senior Katrina Setchenkov in the third-set tiebreaker to decide the Section II girls’ singles tennis championship, and needed to force herself to forget the missed shots moments ago that got her into this predicament.

Schmitz did so, and fought her way back to 3-3, then 4-4, and won the last three points to win 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-4) at Sportime on Tuesday, a huge accomplishment for a No. 7 seed who came into the tournament simply hoping to make the quarterfinals.

“I was just trying to stay calm, because I actually had a lot of pressure on me,” Schmitz said. “I knew either way, it was almost over, and I was going to fight for that short amount of time as hard as I could.

“As they say, you kind of have to have a short-term memory. I was just trying to forget my mistakes and play the best that I could for the moment.”

As she did in the third-set tiebreaker, Schmitz also had to tap into some mental toughness after having given up a break of serve that got the top-seeded Setchenkov back to 5-5 in the third set.

The biggest and longest back-and-forth swing of the match also came at a crucial time, when Schmitz and Setchenkov played to deuce five times after Setchenkov had come back from a set point for Schmitz.

Schmitz had the advantage four straight times before finally going up 6-5 in the third set with a backhand passing shot to break Setchenkov’s serve.

“The last point [to get to 6-5], I’m  just like, ‘Just stay calm, just stay calm. You’re more likely to win this point if you stay calm,’ ” Schmitz said. “Then the point was long. All of these rollercoaster matches I had, the last points were super-long.

“Then if I lost that, it would’ve been [down] 6-5, so I knew the stakes and that this was my last opportunities. I’ve had opportunities, but this is my last one.

“So I just tried to do good, and …” she said, breaking into a laugh, “It felt like I won the U.S. Open after that.”

Setchenkov broke Schmitz back to tie it at 6-6, getting Schmitz running around while up 15-40 and finishing the game with a smash at the net.

Setchenkov took control of the tiebreaker early with sharp, steady forehands, but down 5-4, she put one into the net, then hit a forehand long to end a long rally and the match, to a “Let’s go!” shout and fist pump from Schmitz.

By the time she left the court to hug her family, Schmitz was in tears.

“It wasn’t even a conscious effort to do that, it just came out,” she said of the “Let’s go!” “And then I just started crying.

“Really, really surreal. Going into this, I was like I just want to get through to the quarterfinals, you know? I was the seventh seed, and I have so many years to get better, so let’s just try and get to the quarterfinals. Last year, I was out second round. Once it started getting hard, playing girls like Eujeong [Choi of Niskayuna] and Bryn [Fitzmaurice of Greenville], that I tried to win one more match and focus on every point.”

Schmitz’s father, Tom, starred for Scotia-Glenville High School and UAlbany, where he was inducted into the athletic hall of fame in 1992.

Tom Schmitz’s three older kids, Ryan (Siena), Robert (St. Lawrence) and Claire (Marist), all played college tennis. Ryan was a Section II individual boys’ champ for Scotia in 2010, and Claire, who made it to the state tournament five times in a row, won a Section II girls’ individual title while at Emma Willard in 2011.

“My grandpa and my dad played, and my dad just loves tennis, so we’re kind of a tennis family, and my siblings do so well at sectionals that I’ve got to bring it, too,” Riley said. “I knew that I’m a sophomore, so I’ve got some years where I can play loose and try to do my best. I was going into that match thinking that whatever happens, I was OK with it.”

Schmitz has been playing varsity tennis since she was in seventh grade, but this will be her first state tournament, which will be held at Sportime Thursday through Saturday.

Setchenkov will also compete there, as will Kate Regan of Holy Names, who defeated Fitzmaurice 6-1, 6-0 in the Section II third-place match on Tuesday.

“Just keep those expectations again,” Schmitz said. “I feel like when I’m kind of the underdog and odds are against me, I’m going to try my best to play hard, and whatever happens, happens at state. I have a lot of years ahead.”

NISKAYUNA’S CHOUDRY, BENKI WIN DOUBLES

The Section II doubles championship was also decided by a tiebreaker, but Niskayuna senior Aleesha Choudry and freshman Jeevika Benki needed just two sets to get past Saratoga Springs senior Kate Lindley and freshman Addison Jones, 6-4, 7-6 (7-2).

Benki also won the doubles championship last year, with Olivia Dartawan.

“It was close the whole way through,” Choudry said. “There was a lot of deuces in there, especially at the end of the first set and beginning of the second, at least five or six in a row. But they played well. I think mainly we had to figure out how to adapt our playing to what we needed to do.”

“It’s different with Aleesha,” Benki said. “This is probably my last time doing doubles for sectionals, so at least we won it.”

Choudry and Benki have been playing singles all season, so they had little time to connect as a doubles team, but now are on their way to the state tournament.

“She’s racking up the titles,” Choudry said. “For me, I’m a senior this year, so this was my last opportunity to do well in sectionals. I usually do singles, but this year I did doubles, and, clearly, it ended up well. I’ve actually never been to states, so I don’t have a concept of what that’s supposed to be like.”

“I think we can get past the first round,” said Benki, who made it to the quaterfinals and placed eighth with Dartawan last year.

Lindley and Jones will also compete at the state tournament, and in an all-Bethlehem third-place match to decide the third representative from Section II, Anna Peles and Hope Brown defeated Kirsten Phang and Rayka Kogut, 6-1, 7-5.

Categories: High School Sports, Sports, Sports

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