MIDDLEBURY — Gusts of change have swept through both the Northridge and Memorial girls high school tennis teams this season.
For the Raiders, those changes have been to the lineup.
For the Crimson Chargers, the change has been to a winning culture.
One thing didn’t change Thursday evening, though. The hosts captured a fifth straight Northridge Sectional, this time edging the wildly improved Chargers 3-2.
“There were some combinations that in the long term I thought would be a little better, and it has really paid off,” Raider coach Angie Brenneman said of juggling her lineup early in the season at every spot except No. 1 singles. “The girls were (receptive), and that’s what made it work. They want to win, and they know I want to win, and they trusted me, and I appreciate that of them.”
Northridge (14-4) got a 6-1, 6-1 victory from Ashley Owens at 2 singles and straight-set wins from both doubles spots to clinch with the first three points of the night.
Memorial closed the final gap thanks to Bailey Denton’s 6-2, 6-2 win at 1 singles over Sarah Smith and Taelor Grose’s rally from a set down at 3 singles.
The Chargers were coming off their first postseason win over crosstown Central in more than a decade one night earlier, and their 9-6 final record comes on the heels of going just 3-23 over the previous two years.
“I’m disappointed with the outcome, but I’m not disappointed with our team,” second-year coach Mike Hartnett said. “Everything they did to become 9-and-6 was unbelievable. The girls put in lot of work in the offseason, and they believed we could become better.”
Denton’s work earned her, as a No. 1-slotted player unbeaten in team postseason play, a spot in the individual singles tournament field. Denton — who is 13-4 on the season but had lost each of two regular-season matchups against Smith, her fellow junior — will likely play Wednesday at Northridge against an opponent to be determined.
“Bailey wanted to prove she was a better player than she showed in the past against (Smith),” Hartnett said. “She played excellent and controlled it from start to finish. She controlled the point right off the bat instead of waiting for the fourth or fifth ball. She placed (Smith) in the corner, moved her and got the shots she needed to get to fall.”
“Bailey played great, and maybe Sarah wasn’t at the top of her game, but that’s OK,” Brenneman said. “That’s why we have teammates. We play as a team and our depth is where we’re effective. We’re winning as a team.”
For Brenneman, it was her sixth sectional crown in seven years as a head coach, including titles all four years at Northridge and in two of three while she was at Westview.
The Raiders host a regional semifinal Tuesday against the winner of today’s Goshen Sectional championship between Fairfield and Jimtown.
The Chargers graduate just two players — Shannon Gunn at 1 doubles and Jordan Dillman at 2 — from Thursday’s lineup. Similarly, Northridge’s lone two seniors are Amy Stoffel at 1 doubles and Kate Ahonen at 2.
Northridge 3, Memorial 2
Bailey Denton (M) def. Sarah Smith 6-2, 6-2. Ashley Owens (N) def. Corinn Whittaker 6-1, 6-1. Taelor Grose (M) def. Courtney Clark 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Olivia Erekson/Amy Stoffel (N) def. Shannon Gunn/Haley Stouder 6-1, 7-5. Kate Ahonen/Sam Harkrider (N) def. Jordan Dillman/Delaney Gilbert 6-1, 6-4.
Records: Northridge 14-4, Memorial 9-6.
Next: Northridge vs. Goshen Sectional winner (Fairfield or Jimtown) in Northridge Regional semifinal Tuesday, 5 p.m.; championship is Wednesday.