WORCESTER - The Westboro girls’ tennis team was looking to cap an unbeaten season with a state championship in Friday’s Division 1 final against Acton-Boxboro. Colonials’ junior Dasha Kostikina, unbeaten this season, had other ideas.
Kostikina, playing the Rangers’ Pooja Ganesh at third singles, stormed back in the second set after losing the first, winning a tiebreaker. She followed with a dominant 6-1 third-set win to give her team a 3-2 victory at Clark University.
The loss was the first of the season for Westboro, which had won 20 straight. The Rangers’ last defeat came during last year’s Central Mass. Tournament. Acton-Boxboro finished with a 19-2 record.
“It came down to a nail-biter with momentum swings at third singles,’’ Westboro coach Mary Schwartz said. “We certainly had our chances in that second set. There’s no question in my mind that Pooja Ganesh is a real fighter. She hung in there and played tough. I’m proud of her. I thought Pooja represented us very well at the end.’’
Before Kostikina’s 2-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 victory, each team won a point in singles and doubles.
Colonials’ junior Julia Larson defeated sophomore Alanna Judd at second singles, 6-0, 6-1. Moments later, Westboro tied the match, 1-1, when sophomore Brianna Greene toppled senior Diana Du at first singles, 6-4, 6-3.
“My opponent was a strong player, so it felt good to win and also tie the match,’’ Greene said. “My match probably could have gone either way, but I was able to tough it out. I just tried to get as many balls as I could on the court. By doing so, I was moving her around a lot. It would have been great to win the championship, but we still had a great season.’’
“We had a feeling we’d do pretty well if we could win second and third singles and get one of the doubles matches,’’ Acton-Boxboro coach Mike Gardner said. “Our lock was second singles [Larson] who’s been phenomenal all season. Kostikina is our MVP. So the doubles win was big.
Gardner said the 10-minute break between the second and third sets in third singles was critical.
“Dasha lost her first set of the year in the first set, and she made more errors than she should have in that second set, so I needed to get her into that 10-minute break,’’ said Gardner. “I told Dasha, ‘This is it, you’ve got to be patient.’ Just keep the ball in play, and she did that very well.’’
Acton-Boxboro went ahead, 2-1, when Mengli Shi and Amy Liu downed Ali Strand and Ayako Mikami at first doubles, 6-3, 6-0. Westboro tied the score when its second doubles team of Cailin Li and Samantha Kehoe beat Kelly Lin and Mohini Vembu, 6-4, 6-3.
“This was probably the hardest match that we’ve played all year,’’ Li said.