WHITE PLAINS – With the conference championship on the line, North Rockland doubles duo Anika and Akemi Dwyer found themselves in trouble during their 10-point tie-breaker set against Ursuline’s Laina Campos and Vanessa Ciano on Friday at White Plains High School.
Up 6-5, Akemi Dwyer was struck hard in the face on a point-blank volley at the net, causing a delay of the match. Even while she was sitting out with a bag of ice to prevent swelling, there was no doubt in her mind that the match would go on.
After the injury timeout, the Dwyer sisters picked up where they left off and rallied to win the decisive set 10-6 and claim the Conference II title.
“I didn’t doubt myself, I knew I was stronger than that,” Akemi Dwyer said. “You just got to pull through and deal with it; the pain goes away.”
The match was a continuation from Thursday, which saw Ursuline’s Campos and Ciano win the first set 6-3 and the Dwyer sisters win the second set 7-6.
Anika Dwyer, who already had to switch rackets just before the tournament began, opted to use a different, wider racket she found in North Rockland’s storage room for Friday’s tie-breaker set, a decision that surprised her coach, Jen LaBier. She said that the change helped her on her volleys.
“In the beginning, I was kind of hesitant,” Anika Dwyer said about the racket change. “But I kept in mind that it’s not the racket that makes you play; it’s you.”
The senior duo also became the first North Rockland team to win a conference tournament since Diana Lorentz and Margaret Iliev in 2008.
“It’s a pretty special feeling to know that in my senior year, I could do something as amazing as that,” Akemi Dwyer said. “It feels good.”
Mamaroneck freshman Emma Lella, who last year was the school’s first eighth-grader to make varsity in 16 years, upset Suffern’s Sydney Kaplan, the top seed, 6-3, 6-4, to win the singles conference title.
The two had played during the regular season, with Kaplan winning in straight, eight-game sets.
“It feels so great; I’m so happy,” Lella said of winning the conference title. “It’s very special because I have such a great team behind me. I’m very proud of myself.”
In the second set, Kaplan was down 5-2, but won two straight games to close the gap to 5-4. Lella, however, was able to close out the match.
“It was close, so I just wanted to keep playing the way I was playing,” she said. “I just stayed focused and played it point by point.”
With the win, Lella, along with Kaplan and the Dwyer sisters, will all look to the sectional tournament at Harrison High School beginning next Tuesday.
“I want try to make it to states and play as well as I can,” Lella said. “I have to put it all out on the court.”
The fifth and sixth place singles match was also played, with Ursuline’s Kiera Tobia defeating Scarsdale’s Ashley Granieri 1-6, 6-4, 10-4.