Lauren Stratman and Rachel Decker-Sadowski were embroiled in an intense match for the Channel League girls tennis singles championship on Thursday until Decker-Sadowski was pulled from the match due to injury, giving Stratman her second consecutive league title.
Santa Barbara High coach Steve Geremia had noticed his star senior limping and grimacing during the second set at Knowlwood Tennis Club and decided to end the match with Decker-Sadowski up 5-3.
“It’s not exactly the way I wanted to finish it. I’m sorry she’s injured,” said Stratman.
Decker-Sadowski’s competitive spirit caused her to be upset when Geremia pulled her, and she said that she was just experiencing leg cramps, but the coach had talked it over with assistant coach Greg Tebbe and Decker-Sadowski’s mother during the second set and decided that it was the right move.
“I know that she’s having a lot of difficulty. I don’t really know what it is, but I know she’s injured. She hated to quit. She’s probably pretty mad at me,” he said. “Maybe it’s a calf-muscle pull and maybe it’s an achilles tendon, I don’t know. Yeah, I think she can win the second set, but it just wouldn’t be smart to risk serious injury.”
Decker-Sadowski won the title as a sophomore two years ago, and was defeated by Stratman last season.
In doubles play, Santa Barbara sophomore Aurora Garrison and junior Haley Hranicky-Galitzer downed twin teammates Thalia and Ariana Hudson 6-2, 6-0 for the title. Hranicky-Galitzer, a junior, teamed up with Garrison for the first time just last Friday.
“I think we were both just really pumped for the matches. We’re a new team so it was kind of tough coming into this tournament because we weren’t used to each other on the court, but today was really good,” said Hranicky-Galitzer.
The Hudson twins came on strong in the tournament, upsetting San Marcos’ Christine Pearson and Amy Ransohoff on Wednesday before taking down Santa Barbara’s top singles team — Hanna Grokenberger and Kinzie McKeown — 6-2, 7-6 (8-6) in Thursday’s semifinal. Hranicky-Galitzer and Garrison defeated San Marcos’ Amy Kinsella and Shelby Zylstra 6-2, 6-2 in the other semifinal.
“Our goal was to make it to the semifinals, so we were excited about being able to play today,” said Zylstra. “We didn’t have anything to lose. It was fun.”
Decker-Sadowski broke Stratman’s serve in the first game of the singles final and used two big overhand shots to kick off the second game, which she won. Stratman grabbed the third game and Decker-Sadowski took the fourth, ending it with an ace.
The entire first set was peppered with long rallies, and Decker-Sadowski won a marathon rally en route to taking a 4-1 lead. That’s when the sophomore turned on the jets and won four straight games to take a 5-4 lead. It went to 5-5 before Decker-Sadowski broke Stratman’s serve to take a 6-5 lead. Stratman broke right back to force the tiebreaker.
Decker-Sadowski won the first two points and a nice backhand later tied things at 5-5, but Stratman won the final two points, ending the set on a nice forehand shot down the line.
Stratman admitted that she had the jitters after falling behind early in the set.
“Yeah I was nervous, but I just tried to breathe and hit and not think a lot and that kind of got rid of my nerves,” she said.
The second set included some exceptionally long back-and-forth games that went to deuce multiple times. Decker-Sadowski grimaced after a rally with the score tied at 3-3 but kept trying to shake it off. After she went up 5-3, Geremia walked over and ended the match.
“It was a great match. If I didn’t think there was a risk of further injury I’d say go forward,” said the coach.
He’s hoping she’ll be back when CIF competition starts on November 12th, and he knows she’ll understand his reasoning one day.
“I think twenty years from now she’ll get over it and speak to me,” he said with a smile.
Stratman, meanwhile, is halfway to achieving quite a lofty goal.
“I’m trying to win it all four years. I knew this was going to be a tough year so I’m excited about winning,” she said.
(Stratman photo Courtesy of SantaBarbaraPics.com)