Mattoon’s Hallie Niemerg discusses strategy with coach Dwight Perry during her opening-round match Saturday morning at the Darling Courts at EIU.

It didn’t look good for Mattoon’s Hallie Niemerg in Saturday afternoon’s Apollo Conference finals match at EIU’s Darling Courts.

The Green Wave’s No. 3 player trailed 4-1. But Niemerg rallied to win five straight games in the first set and then six of seven in the second set to defeat Mahomet’s Amalie Fried, 6-4, 6-1, and help Mattoon win its first conference title in three years.

“They’re all playing very well at this time of the year,” Mattoon coach Dwight Perry said, “which they should be doing.”

Mattoon won five individual titles, losing only at No. 1 to Charleston’s Rachel Thomas, who defeated Emily Stortzum in the final, 6-2, 6-4.

“Rachel Thomas is a really good player,” Perry said, “and she’s played at number one for three years now. So a girl (Stortzum) coming from playing number four last year to number one – she has nothing to be ashamed of.”

Charleston’s Rachel Thomas wins a point during her opening match Saturday morning.

Stortzum changed tactics used in previous matches with Thomas, said Charleston coach Eric Selstad, by lofting balls a bit higher, at times, and then hitting harder at other points as well as both charging the net and, conversely, attempting to draw Thomas away from the baseline.

“She (Stortzum) is a very good player,” Selstad said. “But Rachel did a good job of staying in her game plan.

Like Niemerg, Mattoon’s Annelise Overmyer also had some early struggles. But after dropping the opener to Mt. Zion’s Allison Bradford, she won two straight sets for a 4-6, 6-0, 6-2 victory.

Mattoon’s Annelise Overmyer returns a shot during the final set of her finals match Saturday.

Perry called Tess Heune’s straight-set victory at No. 2 her best match of the year. Said Perry: “She was phenomenal.” Kambrelle Ashmore, meanwhile, did a solid job of keeping the ball in play at No. 5, Perry said after her 6-4, 7-5 victory.

Caroline Davis was among four MHS players to defeat a player from Effingham in a final, winning her set by 6-4, 6-3.

TEAM SCORES: 1. Mattoon 61, 2. Effingham 40, 3. Charleston 34, 4. Mahomet 27, 5. Mt. Zion 24, 6. Lincoln 12 

INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONSHIP RESULTS

No. 1 singles: Rachel Thomas (Charleston) def. Emily Stortzum (Mattoon), 6-2, 6-4

No. 2 singles: Tess Huene (Mattoon) def. Riley Arend (Effingham), 6-1, 6-2

No. 3 singles: Hallie Niemerg (Mattoon) def. Lydia Kull (Effingham), 6-4, 6-1

No. 4 singles: Caroline Davis (Mattoon) def. Riley Seachrist (Effingham), 6-4, 6-3

No. 5 singles: Kambrelle Ashmore (Mattoon) def. Eden Wendling (Effingham), 6-4, 7-5

No. 6 singles: Annelise Overmyer (Mattoon) def. Allison Bradford (Mt Zion), 4-6, 6-0, 6-2

SEMIFINALS

No. 1: Emily Stortzum (Mattoon) def. Caroline Kull (Effingham), 6-4, 6-1

No. 2: Tess Huene (Mattoon) def. Meleah Hackett (Charleston), 6-1, 6-2

No. 3: Hallie Niemerg (Mattoon) def. Amalie Fried (Mahomet), 6-4, 6-1

No. 4: Caroline Davis def. Sage Lauper-cook (Mt. Zion), 6-0, 6-2

No. 5: Kambrelle Ashmore (Mattoon) def. Emma Clements (Mahomet), 6-4, 6-2

No. 6: Annelise Overmyer, (Mattoon) def. Lexie Madlem (Charleston), 6-2, 6-2