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Breaking it down: How the Lady Cats won a sectional title

  • Marion's state qualifiers Nicole Szidik (left) and Ana Cuartas.

    Marion's state qualifiers Nicole Szidik (left) and Ana Cuartas.

By Justin Walker
updated: 10/16/2018 2:59 AM

HERRIN -- It seems downright impossible that the Marion High School girls tennis team didn't have anyone place in the top two but still left the Herrin 1A Sectional as team champions Saturday.
After all, the host Lady Tigers had the singles champion and the doubles runner-up. But it was Marion taking home a sectional championship plaque for the first time in program history, boys or girls.
Here's how it happened, as broken down by Marion coach Carrie Watson.
The sectional began Friday and rains hit the complex, forcing a lot of action to be postponed to Saturday. When that happened, Ana Cuartas was playing her first round singles match against a player from Waterloo and leading 6-1, 4-1.
Meanwhile, doubles partners Carrie Graham and Sophia Arnold were in the first set against Mt. Vernon and, also in doubles, Margaux Bruce and Paula Diederich were warming up but didn't start against Waterloo.
Everyone was scheduled to come back at 8 a.m. Saturday.
In between, Cuartas's opponent condeded rather than coming back to Herrin, and another Waterloo player injured her ankle and the Diederich/Bruce tandem would be awarded a walkover victory.
Those points meant that Marion could be in position for the sectional title if Graham and Arnold finished their win against Mt. Vernon, and the outcome meant that Bruce and Diederich could advance to the qualifying round with a win in their next match.
Graham and Arnold indeed won their match, but didn't advance any further. Bruce and Diederich also didn't make the semifinals, but both teams piled up enough matches to help give the Lady Wildcats 16 team points.
The final number of 21 points was reached as singles players Nicole Szidik and Cuartas both reached the semifinals and lost, then faced each other. Szidik beat Cuartas for third place, giving the team an extra point.
Szidik and Cuartas both now get to play at the IHSA 1A state tournament.
The Lady Wildcats weren't crowned sectional champions until getting some help.
Herrin's doubles team of Bryndle Burks and Kelby Weber had to eliminate one of Carbondale's duos and did, then Marion needed Burks and Weber to lose in the championship to Benton's Kaitlyn Younger and Makinley Tonn.
Younger and Tonn won that match 6-0, 6-1 and thus gave Marion the team title for the first time in 12 years of trying.
Herrin's Reagan Ridgway won the singles title for the fourth straight year. She advances to state along with Burks and Weber.
The state tennis tournament begins Thursday and concludes Saturday in the Chicago area.

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