South’s Olivia Dorner wins Class AA state title in girls tennis
HERSHEY — After the tennis official had announced that South Williamsport junior Olivia Dorner won the final game in the second set, the Mountie junior congratulated her opponent and started slowly walking off the court. As she was about to walk through the curtain, she looked up at the balcony at the Hershey Racquet Club and a smile came across her face.
She couldn’t help but smile ear-to-ear as her family and coach were clapping and cheering. This was the moment that Dorner had been working toward for the past three seasons.
Last fall, Dorner saw her title quest come to an end in the Class AA final. On Saturday afternoon, Dorner made sure history didn’t repeat itself.
Dorner defeated Villa Maria Academy’s Tara Thomas, 6-0, 6-1, to win the PIAA Class AA girls tennis championship and became the first player in District 4 history to ever win a state title in girls tennis.
“It feels good. I’m really excited,” Dorner said. “I’m happy with how it played out. It’s definitely (redemption).”
“She works harder than any person I’ve ever seen in tennis. She loves the game,” South Williamsport coach Theresa Summerson said. “Those are the kind of things that you can’t put into somebody. So it’s just been a pleasure to have her on the team. She’s helped us so much and gave us that definite point each match. Other than that, she’s just a really great girl with good character and a great example to other players on my team. It’s just a privilege to have been along for the ride.”
Dorner was as dominant in the state semifinals and final in Hershey on Saturday as she was throughout the regular season and districts. Against Thomas, Dorner routinely forced her to go wide near the sidelines and continued placing pinpoint accurate returns near the sidelines or the baseline that Thomas had no chance of getting to in time. And when Thomas did manage to return a shot, numerous times it was sent into the net or sailed out of bounds.
“My serve’s strong, but I think my ground strokes are stronger,” Dorner said.
Dorner easily won the first set, 6-0, which included a string of three games where Dorner didn’t drop a single point. In the two sets against Thomas, Dorner served six times. And in those games Thomas managed to score just a handful of points.
“I thought I served really well. I was hitting my ground strokes well too. Just kind of everything was working,” Dorner said. “I was definitely trying to move her and just hit my shots.”
Thomas did win one game against Dorner in the second set to make it 5-1, but Dorner closed out the next game. After Thomas tied it at 15-all, she had a high return that didn’t go over the net to put Dorner ahead, 30-15. Two faults on serves made it a 40-15 Dorner lead before Dorner won thanks to Thomas sending a return out of bounds down the left-hand side of the court.
“I was kind of annoyed and a little nervous, then I settled in,” Dorner said.
That sixth game which Thomas won was the only time throughout Saturday’s two matches that Dorner showed any frustration. Thomas did have some success with her returns and forehands, but Dorner did what she has done her entire career and simply dominated.
“She did hit a hard forearm. She had some very good forehands,” Dorner said. “I was trying to go to backhand more and keep her moving.”
Dorner also had three aces in the final.
Whenever Thomas seemed to place a great shot against Dorner, the South Williamsport junior simply countered and returned it out of reach. Dorner had numerous shots perfectly placed down the sidelines on cross shots and played well the few times she went close to the net.
Like many opponents that have faced Dorner the past three years, Thomas didn’t have an answer to slow her down and stop her.
It’s dominance that Summerson is used to seeing every time she steps onto a court.
“She would finish matches sometimes in less than 20 minutes, and that’s just amazing,” Summerson said. “Even during season she had many, many golden sets which means she never dropped a point in a set.”
It took Dorner less than 30 minutes to win in the final.
In the second game of the second set, Thomas returned a high shot to Dorner that Dorner read perfectly and sent cross-court to the right as Thomas was out of position. The next serve, Dorner placed down the sideline.
Dorner closed out the first set with a shot that couldn’t have been more perfectly placed. Thomas had a hard return to Dorner, who was toward the back left corner of the court. That’s when Dorner sent it down the sideline, placing it in by just an inch.
Plain and simple, Dorner had an answer for everything that was hit to her Saturday.
Dorner played excellent in the semifinal match in the morning against Knoch’s Laura Greb, a player Dorner knows from past experience. Dorner defeated Greb in 2018 in the third-place game.
Saturday morning, Dorner beat Greb, 6-2, 6-2, to secure her spot in the championship for a second consecutive year.
Greb made it close early in both sets, trailing 3-2 both times. But Dorner wouldn’t let her win another game the rest of the way.
The South Williamsport standout tennis player ended her junior season with a 61-2 career record. The two losses were in the state tournament as a freshman (semifinal loss) and sophomore (final loss).
Moments after the match, it hadn’t really set in for Dorner yet what she accomplished. Even with the gold medal around her neck once she was on the podium, it didn’t quite set in.
It may take a few days before she realizes just what she accomplished, but Dorner did what no one in District 4 history had ever done and that’s win it all in girls tennis.
“It’s all crazy,” Dorner said about what it was like to win a state title.
“I cried when I sat here because the last two years she was so close and she just never dropped her passion for doing it,” Summerson said. “Each year it was ‘I’m going to push harder’ and it’s been a really fun ride to be on.”
And that ride culminated Saturday in Hershey with a gold medal around her neck.
PIAA CLASS AA TOURNAMENT
Semifinals: South Williamsport’s def. Knoch’s Laura Greb,6-2, 6-2; Villa Maria Academy’s Tara Thomas def. Moravian Academy’s Chessie Bartolacci, 6-2, 6-1. Final: South Williamsport’s Olivia Dorner def. Villa Maria Academy’s Tara Thomas, 6-0, 6-1. Third-place: Knoch’s Laura Greb def. Moravian Academy’s Chessie Bartolacci, 6-0, 6-2.