From The Inquirer
In Colonial Conference tennis, there are Haddonfield and Everybody Else.
The Bulldogs don’t cast a long shadow. They block out the sun
That’s what was so great about this week for the girls from Haddon Township. The Hawks moved into the light and made the most of their moment.
“This feels like Wimbledon to us,” senior No. 1 singles Lexi Turcich said of Haddon Township’s appearance in the state championships at Mercer County Park. “You look around and you see all these big, tough teams, and we’re just this little team from this little town.”
Haddonfield is one of those big, tough teams. The Bulldogs won their third consecutive Group 2 state title on Wednesday, and their 17th overall. They are the defending champion and No. 1 seed in the Tournament of Champions.
Haddon Township achieved a little less, but it sure felt like something special to the Hawks. The Hawks beat Leonia, 3-2, in the Group 1 state semifinals, before falling to Point Pleasant Boro, 4-1, in the title match.
“When you think back to the first day of practice, for us to be playing for the state title, it’s hard to believe,” Haddon Township coach Lorie Foster said.
Wednesday’s long and exciting day was the capstone of an unforgettable week. On Monday, Haddon Township won its first South Jersey title since 1997 with a 3-2 win over Pennsville.
That victory was clinched when Turcich won a three-set, three-hour battle with Pennsville’s Brynn Buechler.
“That was the most thrilling match I ever played in my life,” Turcich said. “There was so much pressure. Win, and we win South Jersey. Lose, and we lose South Jersey.
“I can look back now and say it was fun. But it wasn’t fun when I was playing.”
When Turcich finally won by a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 score, the Hawks erupted in celebration.
“It was like a whole crying-fest,” Haddon Township senior Annie Patella said. “It was perfect.”
The Hawks, whose starting seven included singles players Turcich, Devon Sanford and Scout Bauer, and doubles players Patella, Jess Donaldson, Kathleen Duffy and Alexia Lindsay, got to experience thing that are old-hat for Haddonfield: the bus ride, the lunch break, the swirl of color and competition at the tennis complex.
Best of all, Haddon Township’s players got to share the excitement with Haddonfield’s players, as the Colonial Conference rivals were loud and proud in their support of each other.
No program has been more in Haddonfield’s shadow than Haddon Township, as the teams usually are Colonial Conference as well as Group 2 competitors. But with the Hawks moving down to Group 1 this season, they got the chance to win a sectional title, and also to regard the Bulldogs as something other than a roadblock.
“When we showed up today, it was like we were sister teams in the tournament,” Turcich said. “We know we can’t beat them, but we’re proud to stand next to them. We’re proud to call them sisters.”