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Nunez, McLean eliminated

BETHLEHEM - Jim Thorpe tennis coach Sam Lux said his players entered Wednesday’s District 11 singles tournament at Lehigh University with realistic goals and high expectations.

The realistic goals came from the fact the Olympians’ two qualifiers in the 16-person Class 2A tourney got no help from the draw.

The high expectations came from the fact that they were determined their tough matchups would make them better players.

The final results reflected the talent of their opponents as Gabby Nunez lost to No. 3 seed Sabrina Yurconic of Allentown Central Catholic, 6-2, 6-0, while teammate Tara McLean suffered a 6-0, 6-0 loss to No. 4 seed Cara Magliochetti of Bethlehem Catholic.

“The girls that Gabby and Tara played were both extremely strong tennis players,” said Lux. “I expect them both to reach the semifinals of the tournament and maybe even advance to the finals - they are that good.

“But that said, I was really happy with how both Gabby and Tara played. They knew coming in that they were both huge underdogs. But they stayed positive and battled the entire way. They should feel proud of their accomplishments. There are probably between 200 and 300 girls playing tennis in the district, and only 16 girls (in Class 2A) were good enough to get into this tournament.”

Nunez, who played No. 1 singles for Jim Thorpe this season, actually threw a bit of a scare into Yurconic in the first set. After dropping the first three games, she bounced back to win the next two and had some chances to even the set before Yurconic eventually held serve and pulled away.

“I thought I played pretty well, especially in the first set,” Nunez said. “I had a little momentum after winning back-to-back games, but she hit some nice shots and won a few longer rallies to get the momentum back.

“I enjoyed playing against her. Coach Lux always tells us that playing good players is the best way to improve your game - and I definitely think I picked up some things today that will help me going forward.”

McLean, the Olympians’ No. 2 singles player this season, also talked about how the competition will make her better.

“She was a really nice player,” McLean said. “She had a strong serve and hit a lot of great shots. I thought I did some nice things, but I also feel like I could have played better.

“The important thing for me now is to learn from the mistakes I made, and to use that to keep getting better.”

Lux liked the way both Nunez and McLean were determined to turn their losses into positives.

“I always thought it was more fun to play really talented opponents, as opposed to players who I knew I could beat - and that’s something I try to stress to our players,” said Lux, who was a standout player during his high school career at Jim Thorpe. “Not only does strong competition push you to play your best, but you can learn things from an opponent that you can apply to your own game.

“I’m sure both Gabby and Tara will be better players after facing the level of competition they did today. We still have a regular season match left, we have the District 11 Team Tournament, and we have the District 11 Doubles Tournament - where Gabby and Tara are going to be partners. So the season is far from over. They are going to have several opportunities to take the lessons they learned today, and use them on the court.”

SEEDS HOLD ... All eight seeded players won their opening round matches in Class 2A. The top four seeds - No. 1 Isabella Bartolacci of Moravian Academy, No. 2 Chessie Bartolacci of Moravian Academy, No. 3 Yurconic, and No. 4 Magliochetti - all then won their quarterfinals matches.

UPSET ... The day’s biggest upset came in Class 3A, where unseeded Gigi Leonzi of Parkland knocked off No. 2 seed Ellyana Jacobs of Easton in the opening round. Leonzi couldn’t parlay that win into a semifinal berth, however, as she lost to her Parkland teammate Leah Zolotareva, the No. 7 seed, in the quarterfinals.

NEXT ... The semifinals and finals in both 2A and 3A will take place today at Parkland High School.

Jim Thorpe's Tara McLean follows through with her forehand during Wednesday District 11 Singles Tournament. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Jim Thorpe's Gabby Nunez returns a shot during Wednesday's District 11 Class 2A Tennis Tournament. NANCY SCHOLZ/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS