Metea Valley's Kelsey Chinn saw to it that there would be a new singles champion atop the Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division this fall, but no one could do anything about dethroning the team champion.
Chinn avenged a loss to Bartlett's Jen Gates in last year's final at No. 1 singles by knocking off the Hawks junior 7-5, 6-2 in the championship match Saturday in Bartlett. But when all was said and done on a chilly day of tennis, Neuqua Valley had claimed its 12th straight league crown.
Last season Gates beat Chinn in the regular season and again in the conference meet, but this year has been a turnaround as the Mustangs star completed a sweep of Gates and heads to sectional play unbeaten in conference.
"I've been training pretty hard and working on my game," Chinn said. "Things have started to click. It's definitely a good thing."
For Neuqua, Saturday delivered more good things for the program. The Wildcats entered the meet in first place after a perfect UEC regular season and claimed yet another title after three doubles teams won titles to go along with Jen Cha's easy win at No. 3 singles and Amy McNeal's hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 victory in the title match at third singles.
"Never. It's wonderful," Wildcats coach Trudy Bennorth responded when asked if all these UEC titles are getting old. "It gets better and better. We wanted it again and I'm really proud of them."
After five champions on Saturday, Neuqua Valley finished with 68 points, with Metea Valley second at 56 and followed by Waubonsie Valley (52) and host Bartlett (29).
At first doubles the Wildcats duo of Taylor Hershey and Christine Zhang dropped a first-set tiebreak before rebounding to win 6-7, 6-2, 6-3 over Bartlett's Gabby Gregorio and Jitsupa Sirinit.
Hershey, a sophomore who played singles at the start of the season, said the tight come-from-behind win over the Hawks shows just how much the pair has grown.
"It proves our partnership. No matter what it is we can come back," she said.
Zhang, a senior, said the Wildcats didn't let the first set bother them much and added that the win in the finals more than makes up for a three-set loss to Gregorio and Sirinit during the regular season.
"We just said this is a new set and forget about the first set," she said of the strategy following the 7-6 setback. "We didn't start really well, but this feels real good."
Cha cruised to the title at No. 2 singles, beating Warrior Nadia Gonzalez 6-1, 6-0 after a 6-0, 6-0 triumph in the semis. At No. 3 singles, McNeal trailed Waubonsie Valley's Nithya Sridhar 5-4 in the second set before battling back to win 6-3, 7-6, taking the tiebreaker 7-2.
Metea Valley's Tyler Proszowski and Kaitlyn Hammerly bested Neuqua 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 to take first at No. 2 doubles, while it was the Wildcats who beat the Mustangs in the final at No. 3 doubles where Katie Beshilas and Akshita Pillai earned a crown. Neuqua's final champs came at No. 4 doubles when Haley Walton and Allie Pastine bested Metea Valley 6-4, 6-4.