BONNE TERRE – North County tennis sisters Lauren Politte and Hanna Politte are a natural fit on the court as doubles partners.
Their dominant performance together on Monday helped the Lady Raiders set a positive tone for a crucial week in their MAAA championship hopes.
North County delivered a focused sweep of the doubles round, and only expanded its command from there to defeat Farmington 8-1 in a first-place MAAA showdown.
Lauren Politte, Julianna Farr, Katelynne Jones and Emily Pruneau each scored convincing singles wins, and freshman Lucy Pace carried the most entertaining duel in a tiebreak.
The Lady Raiders commenced a four-day stretch that includes a rematch in Farmington on Thursday with back-to-back clashes against Potosi in between.
North County (4-0, 3-0) can clinch the regular-season conference crown with an unbeaten week, and started down the right path against the Knights.
Although the sibling standouts secured an 8-2 triumph over Abigail Doty and Susan Rippee, the early stages of that contest were highly competitive.
Doty and Rippee coaxed a bushel of deuce situations during the first two North County service games, but ultimately fell behind 5-0 while repeatedly pushed into returns from the baseline.
At No. 2 doubles, Jones converted a break chance with an overhead return, then served a clean final game alongside Farr in an 8-3 outcome against Kate Busenbark and Karmin Duncan.
Farmington (4-1, 3-1) looked to salvage the remaining doubles match, and briefly enjoyed a 5-4 lead achieved by Abigail Thurman and last-minute substitute Helen Griffin.
But the combination of Pace and Pruneau responded to take the next four games. Pace capped a key rally with a forehead winner from the sideline, and Pruneau sealed the 8-5 win with quick reaction at the net after three straight Pace serves went unreturned for a 40-love cushion.
The Lady Raiders would not fade once singles action began. Farr built the team lead to 4-0 with steady play throughout her 8-2 victory against Busenbark.
The No. 1 singles clash featured two players who catapulted returning all-conference teammates in the offseason to achieve that status.
Doty threatened multiple times to break Lauren Politte early on, but the North County sophomore held before pulling away to a comfortable 8-3 result.
Duncan was responsible for helping the Knights deny a potential team shutout. She won an impressive early point with a saving return of a lob with her back to opponent Hanna Politte.
Frustration turned into visible emotion during the 8-2 defeat for Politte, who suffered two incorrect line calls on game points as Duncan established leads of 2-0 and 5-1.
But victory had already been attained by North County, and Pruneau added an 8-3 triumph over Griffin, who was pressed into her varsity debut with two usual starters unable to play.
Pace and Thurman battled well beyond the one-hour mark amid numerous momentum swings at No. 5 singles, but the powerful first serve of Pace eventually won out.
Thurman executed several excellent cross-court returns on the run, including a drop volley that led her toward match point at 7-6 after Pace double faulted.
Pace responded with a clutch ace to stay alive, and each player eased through her next service game to force the tiebreak. Pace claimed the last four points to emerge 9-8 (7-2).
Jones displayed solid striking and court coverage to outlast Rippee 8-3, as unforced errors plagued the Farmington senior down the stretch.
Jones mixed in a couple of timely scoring lobs, and breezed through her fourth service game to surge ahead 7-1 in complete command.
Rippee was resilient late, earning an arduous break and avoiding any mistakes while resisting three match points at love-40. But a final net return sealed her fate.
1. Lauren Politte (NC) def. Abigail Doty, 8-2
2. Julianna Farr (NC) def. Kate Busenbark, 8-2
3. Karmin Duncan (FA) def. Hanna Politte, 8-2
4. Katelynne Jones (NC) def. Susan Rippee, 8-3
5. Lucy Pace (NC) def. Abigail Thurman, 9-8 (7-2)
6. Emily Pruneau (NC) def. Helen Griffin, 8-3
1. L Politte/H Politte (NC) def. Doty/Rippee, 8-2
2. Farr/Jones (NC) def. Busenbark/Duncan, 8-3
3. Pace/Pruneau (NC) def. Thurman/Griffin, 8-5
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