Girls tennis: Dawson freshmen making early statement at No. 1 doubles


LAFAYETTE — You just never know what you are going to get from a freshman.

Put two of them together and you could be asking for double trouble.

That is not the case early on for Dawson School tennis coach Kathy Benninghoff and her No. 1 doubles team of Isha Banjeree and Maggie Berry.

The ninth-grade duo has started their season 2-0, with an opening win over Fountain Valley and then on Wednesday at home against Erie in a three-set thriller.

“They played their hearts out,” said Benninghoff, whose team also improved to 2-0 on the season by winning the dual 5-2 over the Tigers.

Banjeree and Berry dropped the opening set to the Tigers experienced senior pairing of Sarah Martinez and Karah Parrs, and rallied to take the second set 6-4.

Martinez and Parrs were up 5-3 in the third set, but just couldn’t close it out.

“Instead of going to the net, since we are not the strongest net players — we are working on it — (Benninghoff) just told us to look for the open spaces in the court,” said Berry, who the Tigers were going to on a regular basis to stay away from Banjeree’s powerful ground strokes.

The Mustangs tied the set at 5-5 in the third and then staved off two Erie break point chances in the 11th game to go up 6-5. One final break clinched the match 2 hours and 15 minutes after it started.

Dawson, which will play at Boulder on Thursday, swept through the singles with relative ease. At No. 1 senior Fiona Bell, who dropped a three-set marathon in her first match of the season, was on the court for just 40 minutes against Erie’s Brittany Hobbs, winning 6-1, 6-0.

“It takes a of of mental pressure to kind of keep yourself focused,” Bell said. “I played a girl very similar to (Hobbs) and made the mistake of losing my patience in the second and third sets.

“Today, I just tried to focus on giving it all the energy I could.”

Bell, a starter on the Mustangs basketball team, has had to make the adjustment to a different kind of court and it is not as quick a transition as one might think.

“You have to play your challenge matches in two or three days,” said Bell, who is headed to San Francisco over spring break to look at colleges, “and then turn right back around and get mentally prepared for the first real match.”

At No. 2 singles, Dawson’s Jill Howarth beat Lexi Thomson, 6-0, 6-1. Rachel Clair completed with singles sweep for the Mustangs, beating Emily Farineau 6-2, 6-2.

The bright spot for the Tigers was in doubles, especially on the bottom of the ladder. Erie’s No. 3 doubles team of Natalie Sinks and Becca Vincent beat Ellie Beeck and Nicole Hilton, 7-5, 7-5. Also, the Tigers No. 4 doubles duo of Shandi Ball and Kaitlyn Thornton beat Gaby Greenfield and Maddie Fagundo, 7-6 (6), 6-4.

“They are used to competing and two of those teams have played together for a couple of years,” Erie coach Carrie Mitchell said. “It’s nice to have team that you don’t have to teach how to play and you can work on strategies.”


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At Dawson School

Singles — 1. Fiona Bell, Dawson, def. Brittany Hobbs, 6-1, 6-0; 2. Jill Howarth, Dawson, def. Lexi Thomson, 6-0, 6-1; 3. Rachel Clair, Erie, def. Emily Farineau, 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles — 1. Isha Banerjee/Maggie Berry, Dawson, def. Sarah Martinez/Karah Parrs, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5; 2. Sophie Roenblatt/Anna Beeck, Dawson, def. Sarah Mirabassi/Cara Fitzpatrick, 7-5, 6-1; 3. Natalie Sinks/Becca Vincent, Erie, def. Ellie Beeck/Nicole Hilton, 7-5, 7-5; 4. Shandi Ball/Kaitlyn Thornton, Erie, def. Gaby Greenfield/Maddie Fagundo, 7-6 (6), 6-4.