South’s Plotnikova wins district title

After winning last year’s district title – a 6-0, 6-2 win over Loyalsock’s Pam Niditch – South Williamsport’s Anya Plotnikova came into her senior year with a target on her back. She was undeniably the best tennis player in the district. She proved that in years past with a 58-6 record, a district runner-up finish and a district title. But she took the challenge and proved again that she is the best girls tennis player in District 4.

Plotnikova capped a 19-1 season with a 6-2, 6-0, win over Loyalsock’s Sarah Malone to earn her second consecutive District 4 Class AA title Thursday afternoon at the West Branch Tennis Club.

Plotnikova and Malone both advance to the state tournament in Hershey which starts Saturday, Oct. 29. Plotnikova won her semifinal match earlier in the day against Hughesville’s Allison Mattucci, 6-0, 6-3, while Malone came up with a big win over Hughesville’s Rachel Thomas, 6-0, 6-3.

“You feel like you have a target on your back. Her and I both talked quite a bit about that and she was able to take that and use that,” said South Williamsport coach Theresa Summerson. “She did have one loss throughout the year and I think it helped her to have a little bit more mental toughness and figure her way through.”

“There was definitely a little bit of pressure because unfortunately this will be my last year and coming in everybody was like ‘Oh, I really don’t have much to lose against her,'” said Plotnikova.

Plotnikova’s only loss of the season came against Thomas earlier in the year. It was a teaching moment for Plotnikova, who has lost to only four opponents in her career: Niditch three times, Bucktail’s Maria Morgan, St. John Neumann’s Leland Barclay and Thomas. The loss showed her that she wasn’t invincible and that she was going to get everybody’s best shot.

“I’m so happy that I pulled it through this year because this season I started off a little rocky so I wasn’t sure how well I would be doing but to get a chance at states again will be great,” said Plotnikova. “I’ve been working on some things and my coaches have been helping me out a lot so hopefully I’ll be able to advance a little farther in states this year.”

Malone won the first game in the first set but Plotnikova dominated after that. Winning the next five points and dictating the tempo. Malone was on the defensive the rest of the match as Plotnikova attacked with a killer serve, aggressive net play and a deadly forehand shot that she could place anywhere, including deep in the corners where she won multiple points.

“I know that I can always hold my serve. As long as I’m able to hold my serve, I’m going to be able to push through and win,” said Plotnikova. “So it’s definitely a little downer when you lose the first game but you know it’s only the first game so you’re able to come back.”

“When Anya plays like that, there is nobody who is going to beat her,” said Loyalsock coach Rick Zimmerman.

This was supposed to be a down year for the Loyalsock tennis program after having a dominant run of district champions. But Malone put that thought to rest as she led Loyalsock at No. 1 singles to a share of the PHAC title. She even defeated Thomas, who holds a 20-2 record and was 2-0 against Malone during the regular season.

“She’s never beaten Rachel. I think that was the match of her life and to beat her in the semifinals and qualify for states was amazing,” said Zimmerman.

Malone also heads back to states for the first time since her freshman year when she went as a doubles pairing with Kim Levy.

“She hasn’t been back to states since then so it’s nice for her to go out as a senior and get back there,” Zimmerman said.

Malone will play the District 3 champion while Plotnikova takes on the runner-up from District 9. Plotnikova will try to build on her quarterfinal finish from a season ago.

“I kinda choked a little last year so hopefully this year I figure my nerves out and it will go a lot better,” Plotnikova said.

“I would love that and I think she’s at the point where that may happen this year and that would be great,” Summerson added.

District 4 SINGLES

CHAMPIONSHIPS

Semifinals

Anya Plotnikova (SW) def. Allison Mattucci (H) 6-0, 6-3; Sarah Malone (L) def. Rachel Thomas (H) 6-0, 6-3.

Finals

Anya Plotnikova (SW) def. Sarah Malone (L) 6-2, 6-0.