By Pilar Barrio-Sanchez
Charleston’s Rachel Thomas bounced back from a semifinal defeat to sweep past Mattoon’s Emily Shortzum, 6-1, 6-4, to win a consolation match and take third in the MHS tennis invitational at the high school courts Saturday afternoon.
Mattoon’s Tess Huene advanced to the final and finished second, giving Mattoon enough points to finish in third place with 27 points, eight points behind Teutopolis who came second and 17 points behind Robinson which came in first with 44 points. Charleston finished seventh with 19.
In the consolation, Shortzum broke Thomas’s serve and tenaciously tracked down countless shots, getting to every ball and going to the net to prevent Thomas from using her dangerous topspin.
Thomas, though, remained patient. She started moving Shortzum across the court until she could hit a winner. Thomas then broke Shortzum’s service three times to win the first set, 6-1.
“When she started going to the net, I just realized I needed to hit a really clean passing shot around her and not choke,” Thomas said.
After the first set, Shortzum changed her strategy and decided to stay back instead of going up to the net, which created prolonged rallies.
Shortzum was the first one to break service, doing so in the fourth game to go ahead in the second set. But Shortzum responded by winning the next game to tie the score, 3-3. That’s when Thomas started hitting her dangerous topspin again, forcing Shortzum to stay back past the baseline in order to be able to hit the ball.
Thomas broke service one more time to secure the victory.
“After the semifinal lost, I told myself I needed to take control over my emotions and just focus on hitting my shots,” Thomas said. “ I think I can have a good season if I continue to hit my shots and stay focused.”
Thomas had advanced to the semifinals early in the afternoon where she faced Casey’s Eva Richardson. Thomas broke service to start the match and led for most of the first set. The wind started to blow during the eighth game, which rendered Thomas’ topspin ineffective. Richardson then took command to win the match, 6-4, 6-1.
“It was a good first set,” said Trojans coach Eric Selstad. “She (Thomas) was doing well, the conditions were a little bit windy, but she was hitting through the ball.”
Thomas rested for only 20 minutes before playing in the consolation match.