ERIE - With just one week of practice, the Warren Dragon girls tennis team traveled on Monday and were defeated by defending Class AA state champion Mercyhurst Prep, 5-0, at the Pennbriar Athletic Club.
"Before the match began, assistant coach John Parroccini and I told the kids that playing the state champions is a privilege and an opportunity afforded only one team, that being us in their first match of their state title defense," said Warren coach Jeff Bartsch. "We were very proud of our kids today. None of our kids were discouraged at all. We know that we will be competitive with several teams and we are looking forward to the season as it progresses."
Senior Cassie Johnson led things off for the Lady Dragons in her debut match in the top singles position, losing 6-0 and 6-0.
"As the match progressed, Cassie relaxed and played exceptionally well. She lost to Lauren Petrella, who was Fairviews' top player last year and will most likely be the districts' top singles player this season," said Bartsch.
Senior Corie Eckman played a hard fought match with Mercyhurst's Cait Schultz but was defeated by a 6-0, 6-0 count.
"A lot of the games were deuced, which indicates that the winning potential is there for Corie," added Bartsch.
First time starter Maggi Hansen played well and was the only singles starter to record a game for Warren in a 6-0, 6-1 loss to reigning District 10 doubles champ Brittany McBride.
"Maggi played some pretty good tennis out there today," said Bartsch. "She is steady and will do well in the three slot this season."
In the top doubles match, Shoshanna Ochocki and Alexis Vavala played some inspired tennis but fell to the pair of Katie Elia and Taylor Levinson.
"Elia was the top singles player on the state championship team last year, and is now the number four player on the squad. This indicates how much Mercyhurst has improved since last season," said Bartsch. "Shoshanna was all over the court and was hitting some great shots today."
The second doubles pair of Kim Parroccini and first time starter Karly Taylor played well, but they too were defeated 6-0, 6-0 by Nicole Freeman and Audry Bell.
"Kim was all over the net and was hitting some great volleys today. This pair will win matches as the season progresses," added the coach.
In exhibition play, the doubles pair of Maria Miller and Megan Waterfield dropped a 4-8 decision to former starters on the Mercyhurst squad, while freshmen Rachel Cecco and Sarah Casey played two matches and recorded three games for the Dragons.
The schedule doesn't get any easier for Warren, as it opens up at home on Wednesday against defending class AAA champion McDowell at Betts Park for a 4 p.m. start.