Li, Brunell win gold at EPC Tournament
In what was considered a down year for Parkland girls tennis, the team was certainly able to flex its muscles once it got into the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference Tournament. While none of the singles players made it past the quarterfinals, Lady Trojan doubles teams finished first, second and fourth in doubles, good enough for the team to finish tied for third overall, with Liberty and Central Catholic. East Stroudsburg grabbed the top team spot, with Nazareth finishing second.
The highlight was the sophomore tandem of Anna Li and Ally Brunell, who took gold in the No. 3 doubles bracket, downing Easton in the finals. Roshni Patel and Ally Grob finished second in No. 4 doubles and Kamee Mitra and Madison Staiman placed fourth in No. 2 doubles.
"It was good," said Parkland head coach Mike Hingston. "Doubles is our strong suit and we're pretty deep, so doubles enables us to compete with a lot of teams. For these young kids, sophomores, to win a gold medal like that, the first time playing in a conference tournament, that's special and it's something that we can build off of and be proud of, obviously. I'm happy for them."
Both Li and Brunell admitted to having plenty of nerves when the tournament opened on Friday, but both also said that the nerves lessened as they went on.
The pair also believes that having gone through their first conference tournament together will help them in district play, which begins next week.
"I think we were well prepared coming in," said Brunell. "We got better as the season went on and we knew this was going to be tough, but we were prepared. Dealing with the nerves was tough, but once you start playing, it goes away."
As for Li, the whole season was a bit of a surprise, but she believes that both her and Brunell are better prepared going into district play.
"We never thought about getting this far when the season started," Li said. "This was a complete surprise. It definitely helps a lot. I don't really think I have any more nerves about playing in these bigger matches."
Mitra and Staiman lost to eventual number-two doubles champions from Stroudsburg in the semifinals and then fell to Monica Clark and Sarah Mithani of East Stroudsburg South in the consolation round.
"I thought that there were a lot of really good teams, a lot of very competitive teams. I think the toughest part was just trying to get through [Saturday], with the wind and the sun. Sometimes it was cold and sometimes it was hot. I liked playing today and I have a very good partner and we like playing together."
Like Li and Brunell, the duo were in their first season as a doubles pairing and Staiman was happy with their progress during the season and believes they'll have a better feel for what to expect in districts.
"It gets in your head, mentally, so I think you really have to be there mentally in order to do well," said Staiman of the conference tournament experience. "We were paired together after tryouts and we've definitely improved, because when we first started playing together, it was a little rough. We've evolved a lot."