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Girls tennis: Centaurus’ d’Oronzio shines in Gee-Taylor’s absence

Centaurus' Dakota d'Oronzio fires a backhand shot during her victory against Dawson School's Rachel Clair on Friday.
Centaurus’ Dakota d’Oronzio fires a backhand shot during her victory against Dawson School’s Rachel Clair on Friday.

LAFAYETTE — Dakota d’Oronzio isn’t one of those year-round tennis players who focuses solely on the sport. She’s merely playing like one.

The Centaurus senior No. 3 singles player improved to 6-0 in match play Friday — as did her team — when the visiting Warriors notched a 4-3 victory at Dawson School. Centaurus eked out the team victory despite the last-minute revelation that No. 1 singles star Glenna Gee-Taylor (back injury) would not compete, leaving the Warriors in a 1-0 hole.

D’Oronzio’s 6-1, 6-2 over Dawson’s Rachel Clair was a large reason why Centaurus was able to keep the streak alive, particularly when considering Warriors No. 2 single Lynn Daniel lost for the first time in match play when she fell 6-4, 6-3 to the Mustangs’ Jill Howarth,

“Usually I play really conservatively, but playing Rachel today, I thought I’d take a risk try to hit harder than I normally do,” d’Oronzio said. “It sent a few of my shots sailing, but a couple of them went in. It was a completely different game for me. It was something new.”

Also a cross country runner, d’Oronzio admitted she was a bit rusty when the season began. But it didn’t take her long to find her groove, and Warriors coach Craig Hoeltgen has taken notice of her evolving game.

“Early in the season, she won the points by hitting everything back and waiting for the other person to make a mistake,” Hoeltgen said. “She saw that the really good girls are going to beat her if she plays that way, so she’s working on her aggressive game so she can be ready for regionals and state.”

The Warriors clinched the win with their all-sophomore No. 4 doubles team of Nicky Chockton-Chen and Mary Schultz, who came back to defeat Dawson 4-6, 6-4, 10-1. The Warriors’ No. 2 and 3 doubles teams also earned three-set victories.

“Our young girls stepped up and won the match for us,” Hoeltgen said, noting No. 3 doubles player Meghan Donohoe also is a sophomore.

Most attending the match were disappointed that the No. 1 singles matchup of Gee-Taylor and Dawson standout Fiona Bell never materialized.

“I think she was super-psyched because we figured it would be a good contest,” Dawson coach Kathy Benninghoff said of Bell. “But she’s also flexible and a great and supportive teammate and captain.”

Gee-Taylor’s absence allowed girls such as d’Oronzio to get their turn in the spotlight. With Gee-Taylor on recruiting trips earlier in the season, d’Oronzio and Daniel took turns in the No. 1 singles slot at tournaments. D’Oronzio took fifth at the Broomfield Invitational and Daniel first at the Centaurus Invitational.

It’s something of a double-edged sword for the Warriors’ other singles players when Gee-Taylor is missing.

“It’s an opportunity, but it’s really cool to watch Glenna, too,” d’Oronzio said. “She’s kind of like a little celebrity on our team and we learn a lot from her.”

For d’Oronzio, one of those tips has been to take a step back from the patient game and let it rip.

“I guess I just need to not be afraid of missing,” d’Oronzio said. “That’ll be new for me, but hopefully I’ll get used to it.”

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Centaurus 4, Dawson School 3

At Dawson School

Singles — 1. Fiona Bell, Dawson School won by forfeit; 2. Jill Howarth, Dawson School, def. Lynn Daniel, Centaurus, 6-4, 6-3; 3. Dakota d’Oronzio, Centaurus, def. Rachel Clair, 6-1, 6-2.

Doubles — 1. Isha Banerjee/Maggie Berry, Dawson School, def. Eileen Findlay/Kelsea Krawetz, Centaurus, 6-2, 6-2; 2. Juliette Kaplan/Annie Nagel, Centaurus, def. Sophie Rosenblatt/Anna Beeck, Dawson School, 6-1, 6-7 (5-7), 10-8; 3. Kate Minnihan/Meghan Donohoe, Centaurus, def. Ellie Beeck/Faith Rankin, Dawson School, 6-5, 3-6, 6-1; 4. Nicky Chockton-Chen/Mary Schultz, Centaurus, def. Nicole Hilton/Maggie Fagundo, Dawson School, 4-6, 6-4, 10-1.