WILKES-BARRE – Not even the district’s best could unhinge Nathalie Joanlanne from the top of her game.
For three sets, Joanlanne was seemingly on cruise control. The Wyoming Seminary junior dismantled second-seeded Grace Reilly, of Scranton Prep, by scores of 6-0, 6-0, Friday to claim her second-consecutive District 2 Class 2A girls tennis singles championship at Kirby Park.
“I’m actually shocked with how well I played today,” Joanlanne said. “Grace and (semifinalist Emily Jonsson) are great players. They definitely played well, maybe not as much as I hoped to or else it would be a lot closer.”
Joanlanne had a fierce service game that fluttered Reilly, who typically benefits off the short game. Reilly had a difficult time returning serves, and recovery was minimal when Joanlanne forced Reilly to backhand the return.
“I played her before but I knew her weaker shot is her backhand,” Joanlanne said. “That was my strategy all game.”
It was a stark contrast to last season’s epic district championship. Last season, Joanlanne rebounded from a first-set loss to take care of Scranton Prep’s Kendra Croker 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. On Friday, the Blue Knight tennis star seemed more comfortable on the court.
“Last year, was more nerve-wracking because Kendra had beaten me the year before,” she said. “So there was definitely a lot more pressure on me. In this case, I’ve beaten Grace before. So the pressure was off a little bit.”
After dispensing Jonsson in the semifinals, Joanlanne waited roughly 2 ½ hours while her teammate, Madison Nardone, went three sets with Reilly on the next court. She stayed out of the sun, eating peanut butter and jelly under the shade before Reilly posted a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 win. When she came back well rested, Joanlanne’s shot overpowered her opponent.
”I’ve definitely been training a lot more,” Joanlanne said. “I want to thank Dr. Malcolm Conway, whose helped a lot with my strength, fitness and agility. It made a difference.”
In Class 3A, the Wyoming Valley Conference’s lone survivor through day one fell in the semifinal round. Crestwood’s Kristi Bowman fell to Williamsport’s Maggie Manchester by scores of 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. Bowman lost a tightly contested first game in the third set, and Manchester streamlined a bid to the finals.
“It was nerves a little bit,” Crestwood coach Scott Lenio said. “I think she knew if she won, she makes finals. She couldn’t put many points on the board. She got some unforced errors. There was just no consistency.”
Bowman went ahead 4-1 in the second set – on pace to an easy victory before Manchester stormed back with three straight wins to tie it up. Bowman seemed to be losing her composure. After switching sides, Bowman found her game and appeared to be playing her best tennis, neatly placing a ball in the corner to seal a 6-4 win.
“You have to put it together for three sets,” Lenio said. “And that’s not always easy.”
DISTRICT 2 GIRLS TENNIS
Class 2A semifinals
No. 1 Nathalie Joanlanne, SEM, d. No. 4 Emily Johnson, SP, 6-0, 6-0; No. 2 Grace Reilly, SP, d. No. 3 Madison Nardone, SEM, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Joanlanne d. Reilly, 6-0, 6-0.
Class 3A semifinals
No. 1 Tyra Abdalla, AH, d. Isabel Bauer, WMP, 6-2, 6-1; No. 2 Maggie Manchester, WMP, d. No. 3 Kristi Bowman, CRE, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
Manchester d. Abdalla 7-6 (8), 3-6, 6-4.