FARMINGTON – The North County girls tennis team found itself in new territory on Tuesday afternoon, one step from the Class 1 final four and needing to mount a storybook comeback.
Kennett instead secured three singles victories after taking a crucial No. 2 doubles battle, and advanced with a 5-2 state quarterfinal triumph one day later than originally scheduled at Engler Park.
With teammates gathered near the retaining fence, freshman No. 3 singles player Handley McAtee was focused in a clinching 6-2, 6-1 outcome against senior Hanna Politte.
Macy Bazzell and Malea Lack coasted in their respective matches after posting an 8-0 doubles result, and the Indians (19-0) punched their team ticket to Springfield in a battle of unbeaten.
North County (17-1) was the more rested squad after needing less than 80 minutes to demolish Bishop DuBourg 5-0 in the morning sectional round.
But the Lady Raiders were soon desperate for their standout top four to run the table against Kennett after trailing 4-1 through five completed contests.
No. 1 player Lauren Politte did her best to extend the proceedings with a 7-5, 6-1 win over Anelle Harris that drastically turned late in the first set.
Politte was two points away from dropping it at 5-4, but converted a crucial break point while working the sidelines and dictating the movement. She then earned another following her own clean service game.
Politte turned that momentum into a stunning streak of eight consecutive games in her column, building a 5-0 edge in the second set through solid forehand and backhand placement from side to side.
But McAtee would seal the Lady Raiders’ fate just a few minutes later by zipping a winner on the move from the right corner after denying Hanna Politte on a rare chance to break.
Two singles matches were ongoing as the action was halted. One appeared certain to favor North County while the other was square.
Senior Kate Jones surged ahead of Christi Tejada by capturing five of the first six games, and was on the verge of increasing a 6-1, 4-3 cushion at the No. 4 ranking.
A highly entertaining clash was developing at No. 2 singles where Lady Raiders sophomore Lucy Pace hoped to avert her first singles defeat.
She served and scrambled her way out of a 2-5 deficit, and emerged with a close line call on a return that briefly flustered opponent Audrey Phillips.
Phillips responded with a convincing game, but Pace did likewise as both players operated mostly near the baselines and relied on long defensive rallies. Level at 6-6, they played five points of a first-set tiebreaker that was never settled.
Bazzell blanked Camille Skaggs and Lack yielded just one game to Chloe Roach to bolster the Indians, who had earlier dispatched St. Pius 5-2 after 2 ½ hours of action.
The Politte sisters shined in their final preparation before competing Friday at the state doubles tournament where they finished seventh last fall.
Against Harris and Phillips, they executed several textbook serve and volley combinations with Lauren playing back and Hanna patrolling the net.
Hanna Politte punctuated the clinching game for No. 1 doubles at 8-3 without losing a point on her serve. The top North County tandem will return to Springfield undefeated on the season.
Pace and Jones will also be headed there, likely facing a more challenging first-round draw and looking to rebound from a frustrating 8-6 defeat on Tuesday at the hands of McAtee and Tejeda.
The Kennett duo outlasted a number of unforced errors from their opponents, and climbed out of a love-40 situation to break for a commanding 7-4 lead.
Jones answered with a clutch backhand winner down the line, and Pace sliced the next point perfectly past a charging McAtee to eventually return the service break and stay alive.
The 14th game stood at 30-30 with the Lady Raiders two points from pulling even, but each player sent a return long and Kennett ended the doubles session with a pivotal 2-1 edge.
North County merely surrendered four combined games in five matches against Bishop DuBourg, and saw its young No. 3 doubles team of Skaggs and Mariah Coonce set the tone 8-1.
Lauren and Hanna Politte also prevailed 8-1 while Pace and Jones blitzed their No. 2 doubles opponents 8-0 in less than a half-hour.
Jones secured the last point in singles play for North County against Meghan Meehan, simply using her superior speed and patient strokes to triumph 6-0, 6-1.
Skaggs wrapped up her No. 5 singles contest moments earlier, 6-1, 6-0, over Mary Kuentes.
Lauren Politte led Kate Bettlach 6-1, 4-0 on the opposite side of the facility when North County was declared the winner.
Kennett 5, North County 2
1. Lauren Politte (NC) def. Anelle Harris 7-5, 6-1
3. Handley McAtee (K) def. Hanna Politte 6-2, 6-1
5. Macy Bazzell (K) def. Camille Skaggs 6-0, 6-0
6. Malea Lack (K) def. Chloe Roach 6-0, 6-1
1. Politte/Politte (NC) def. Harris/Phillips 8-3
2. McAtee/Tejeda (K) def. Pace/Jones 8-6
3. Bazzell/Lack (K) def. Skaggs/Coonce 8-0
North County 5, Bishop DuBourg 0
4. Kate Jones (NC) def. Meghan Meehan 6-0, 6-1
5. Camille Skaggs (NC) def. Mary Kwentus 6-1, 6-0
1. Politte/Politte (NC) def. Kate Bettlach 8-1