Huron girls tennis wins dual match against Pioneer for first time in more than 12 years
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Robbie Risdon is in her first year coaching the Huron girls tennis team, so her historical knowledge of the Pioneer rivalry is thin.
But in the days leading up to the match against Pioneer, she got a loud and clear message about the importance of beating the crosstown rivals, in the form or e-mails from her players’ parents.
“They were letting me know that none of the seniors had ever beaten Pioneer,” Risdon said.
Tuesday afternoon, those seniors ended the streak with a 6-2 win over the Pioneers at Huron in an SEC match.
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“It feels really good,” Huron senior Val Peng said. “I think we’ve been waiting to kind of prove ourselves for a while."
The win marks the first time Huron has beaten Pioneer head-to-head in at least 12 years. The River Rats are now 5-0 in league play and on the verge of winning the SEC Red outright.
“We got beat by a better team today and that’s all I’m going to say,” Pioneer coach Tom “Brick” Pullen said, declining further comment.
Huron’s win comes after the two teams tied during last year’s regular season matchup, 4-4. In that match, Huron swept all four singles flights, while Pioneer won all four doubles.
On Tuesday, Huron swept the singles portion, dropping only 12 games and no sets in the four matches with the same lineup it had last year.
“They’re very strong from 1-4,” Risdon said of her singles lineup. “They’re solid all the way through.”
But where the match turned was in the doubles, where Huron’s No. 1 doubles teams of Peng and Michi Ota and it’s No. 2 doubles team of Laura Hanselman and Hana Ljungman notched wins against a talented Pioneer lineup.
“I think based off last year, our singles lineup was the same, they’re all extremely good at tennis,” Peng said. “I think today was a good chance for doubles to come out strong.”
Both the Huron No. 1 doubles team of Peng and Ota and the No. 2 doubles team of Hanselman and Ljungman are made up of one senior and one freshman. It’s a unique combination, but one that has worked well for the River Rats so far.
“They work so well together,” Risdon said. “At tryouts, trying to come up with the combinations you could just tell that they had confidence in each other, both at No. 1 and 2 doubles.”
Peng and Ota went up 5-4 in the second set, and took the match-clinching game by coming back from down 40-15. The duo’s win came after the four Huron singles matches had wrapped up their wins.
The Huron players nearby recognized the significance of the No. 1 doubles win, and immediately mobbed Peng and Ota in celebration.
A few minutes later, though, Peng was focusing on the future. Last year, Huron won its first regional in more than a decade, and the senior said the team “got ahead of ourselves” after that. She’s determined not to let that happen this year.
“It’s just the mentality of never being done,” Peng said. “Beating Pioneer feels really good, but we know we just have to come out next week and play just as well.”
But with wins over the top Wasthenaw County teams under their belt heading into regionals next week, then SEC championships and state championships, the River Rats couldn’t be in a better place.
“I’m feeling really good,” Risdon said. “After the victory we had at Saline and the victory that we just had against Pioneer, it feels really good. It makes you feel more confident going into regionals, definitely.”