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PV’s White falls in second round at district tennis

BETHLEHEM – Haley White doesn’t need a history lesson.

When it comes to tennis at Pleasant Valley, White knows the score.

She watched her brother Jon – a former Times News Player of the Year – etch his name in the school’s record books as one of the Bears’ all-time greats as both a singles and doubles player.

Haley created her own narrative on Monday at the District 11 singles tournament when she knocked off Nazareth’s Julia Guagliardi 4-6, 6-2, 10-4 to advance to the second round for the first time in the Class 3A bracket.

Though her tournament ended with a 6-2, 7-5 loss to No. 3 seed Danielle Barnes of Southern Lehigh in the second round, White was thrilled with her performance.

“I’ve never made it to the second round, so this was all I wanted, to make it to the second round. That’s definitely a big accomplishment,” the senior said. “To be here in the first place is incredible. So I just kind of wanted to go out with a bang. Leave it all out there.”

After falling 6-2, 6-0 to Nazareth’s Sydney DeNardo in the first round last year, White got a confidence boost with a hard-fought win over Guagliardi.

“It was really good. I felt really confident coming out of that,” said White. “I’ve never played this girl (Barnes), so I had no idea what was on the table. But I felt really confident coming in. I knew I had to keep playing hard, though. But I felt good.”

Equipped with a big serve and plenty of power, White was able to keep Barnes on her heels and out of her comfort zone. But Barnes used her finesse to offset White’s strength.

“A lot of long rallies,” White said of the match. “That’s not my playing style. I like to hit the winners and be done. That’s definitely how I go. Long rallies are not my forte at all.

“I thought my serve, my power would definitely get in there.”

Those skills have been critical to White’s success this season.

“Haley’s been playing really well,” said Pleasant Valley head coach Mark Allison. “She’s been hitting the ball well, serving the ball well, and moving out there really well. When Haley’s moving well, she plays really, really well. And she really has.

“The second half of the year, I think she’s really turned it on and picked her game up. For her to win, and advance into the round of 16, is quite an accomplishment for her.”

White was the only Times News area player to reach the second round at Lehigh University.

White’s teammate, Masani Francis, earned the No. 8 seed in the 3A tournament. But Nazareth’s Jenn Soika held on for a 6-0, 5-7, 10-5 win to eliminate Francis in the first round.

“I thought it was a good match overall,” said Francis. “I always know when I play Nazareth, it’s going to be a tough one. So I just said, go out and play as hard as I can, and I thought I did.”

Despite a slow start, Francis never lost her composure.

“I guess I started out pretty slow, which I usually do start out pretty slow,” she said. “But after the first set, I just tried to play as hard as I can.

“I just kept hitting it to her, and she was getting frustrated, so I was banking on that; just keep hitting it to her, and letting her make the mistakes. But she played really well.”

A four-year letterwinner and the Bears’ No. 1 singles player for the last two seasons, Allison lauded Francis’ demeanor as much as her game.

“She’s somebody you don’t want to play poker with,” Allison said of Francis. “She’s steady, very steady. You can’t tell whether she’s winning or losing out there. And I like that, because it doesn’t show anything to her opponent.

“She’s a good athlete with good mental focus out there. And I think that’s what keeps her in the matches, and pulls them out for her when they go three sets or something.”

In the Class 2A bracket, Jim Thorpe’s Leanne Van Essendelft, Christy McLean and Kaitlyn O’Neil, along with Tamaqua’s Brooke Williams, all fell in the opening round.

Bethlehem Catholic’s Jenna Sload topped Van Essendelft 6-2, 6-0.

“She was a really strong player,” said Van Essendelft, who was the Olympians’ No. 1 singles player this season. “I think I played my best against her.

“She was just really good in every aspect – forehand; backhand; everything.”

Pen Argyl’s Kayla Flyte rallied to top McLean 2-6, 6-4, 10-6, while Allentown Central Catholic’s Olivia Luchetti defeated O’Neil 6-1, 6-1.

Jim Thorpe has a lot to look forward to, though, with all three players set to return next season. Van Essendelft played No. 1 singles as a junior, while McLean was the Olympians’ No. 2 singles player as a freshman and O’Neil played No. 3 as a sophomore.

The future certainly looks bright.

“I think they’re seeing the big picture,” said Jim Thorpe head coach Norb Lienhard. “It’s not just about them winning or losing. They’re seeing the team thing. And they know what they can do, that we can have a special team here. We can really have some nice records in the future.

Williams made her second straight appearance in the district tournament, falling to Notre Dame Green Pond’s Sara Medei 6-0, 6-1 in the first round.

“My serve killed me today,” said the Tamaqua junior. “It’s not what I expected, or wanted for myself. But I just have to get better for next year.”

NICE TOUCH … A moment of silence was observed to honor the victims of the Las Vegas shooting prior to Monday’s action.

SELECT GROUP … Though McLean and O’Neil suffered first round losses, their appearance in the district tournament alone was noteworthy. “This is only the second time a (Jim Thorpe) freshman got here to districts. Gabby Binder was the other one. And for Kaitlyn, making it as a sophomore, she’s only the third sophomore that ever made it. It’s saying something,” Lienhard said of McLean and O’Neil.

Pleasant Valley’s Haley White follows through with her forehand during the District 11 singles tournament on Monday. Scan this photo with the Prindeo app to see a video from the tournament. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPOECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS