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STORY: Peninsula players fall in Eastern Region singles
Heritage’s top boys doubles team is the only Peninsula entry to survive the Eastern Region tennis tournament’s first day.
BY SONNY DEARTH
firstname.lastname@example.org | 247-4640
NEWPORT NEWS —
Some bad Peninsula District karma apparently blew off the James River onto Court J-1 at Huntington Park in the Eastern Region tennis tournament Monday.
Tonique Merrell of Heritage High and Melissa Diskin of Warwick, who earned favorable regional draws by winning the Peninsula singles tournament, endured frustrating losses that kept them from gaining state Group AAA bids.
Merrell beat Western Branch’s Bobby Kostinas 6-2, 6-2 on Court J-2 in the morning to earn a semifinal against Moscow native Stas Stekolstsikov of Granby, whom he had beaten in a three-setter last week in team competition.
But Merrell lost 6-4, 6-1 Monday, sending Stekolstsikov into today’s 9 a.m. final against William and Mary-bound blaster Ben Wirth of Ocean Lakes, the two-time defending champion.
"He played out of his mind," Merrell said. "At some point, I just tried to keep the ball in, and I just hit it too short and he took advantage. Then, when I tried to bring it back by being aggressive, it was just too late."
Merrell, who led 3-1, rued a backhand volley he missed on break point while leading 4-3.
"Making that volley would’ve helped," he said. "I would’ve been up 5-3. I kind of lost my spirit."
Merrell’s defeat on J-1 ended about two hours after Diskin dropped a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (8-6) quarterfinal on that court to Gabrielle Krupp of Hickory, the Southeastern District runner-up. It was the first loss on court this season for Diskin, a senior bound for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Diskin rallied from 4-1 down in the third set to go ahead 6-5. In the tiebreaker, Krupp hit a down-the-line winner at 5-6 to save a match point, then advanced on her own first match point when Diskin netted a second serve.
Defending girls champion Shannon Rogers of Cox and Stephanie Macdisi of Princess Anne lost just three games in eight sets between them. Diskin beat Macdisi in the team regional last season but didn’t advance to play her Monday.
The Peninsula runners-up lost in the first round. Menchville senior Aaron Brownell dropped a 6-4, 6-2 decision to Great Bridge’s Bryce Parrish, a Mary Washington recruit who pressed Wirth to 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) in the semis.
PD girls runner-up Shelby Hernandez of Denbigh fell 6-0, 6-1 to Western Branch’s Jenny Astbury, Rogers’ semifinal victim.
In the boys doubles quarterfinals, Merrell and Creighton Jones edged Beach runners-up Cameron Brawley and Chet Mayo 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, while Brownell and Douglas McDowell fell 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 to Wirth and Ryan Suit. Merrell and Jones will earn a state doubles bid if they beat Parrish and his partner at noon today.
In girls doubles, the teams of Diskin-Maria Chevtsova -- on J-1, of course -- and Hernandez-Selna Trinidad fell to Cox tandems.
All of the finalists will advance to the state Group AAA tournament at Huntington Park.
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