By KEN SCHOTT
ROTTERDAM — For Niskayuna High School tennis player Anne Phillips, six years of hard work with the Silver Warriors paid off Oct. 22 at the Sportime tennis center.
Phillips, using a hard serve and precise shotmaking, captured the Section II singles title with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Rachel McDonald of Saratoga Springs.
The senior Phillips improved to 14-0 this season, which included a 6-0, 6-1 win over McDonald in the first match of the season.
Both Phillips and McDonald qualify for the state tournament Nov. 1-3 at the Tri-City Racquet Club in Latham.
“This is my sixth year on varsity,” Phillips said. “I’ve been working for this for a long time, so this is a big deal for me.”
Phillips’ powerful serve helped her control the match. She had two aces, and there were several other service returns by McDonald that were either out or hit into the net.
“The serve really helped me this season,” said Phillips, who will attend Siena College next year. “[I won] a lot of free points from my serves. I’ve been working on it all year.”
Phillips needed only 19 minutes to sweep the first set. “She hit the ball very well,” Niskayuna coach Jim Neal said. “She was good. She was on.”
McDonald, a junior who missed most of the season while rehabbing a Grade 2 Tommy John injury in her right elbow, was a bit nervous in the opening set. “The overall thought of her is nerve-wracking,” she said, “let alone being out there and playing her, someone with her ability.”
McDonald got off to a good start in the second set, taking leads of 1-0 and 2-1.
Falling behind got Phillips’ attention.
“She played really well in the second set,” Phillips said. “She started hitting it harder. It caught me off guard a little bit because the first set was a little easier. I also think the nerves got to me a little bit. It’s the finals, and it’s my senior year.”
Phillips calmed her nerves and broke McDonald in the fifth game to take a 3-2 lead. She had a 5-2 lead and was on serve with a chance to win the match, but McDonald broke Phillips to make it 5-3, and led, 30-15, in the ninth game.
But Phillips took control with her precision shots. Her title-clinching shot was a forehand winner down the line.
“Honestly, it’s easier for me to close out a match that’s close than it is to close one out that’s pretty easy,” Phillips said. “I was a little tired, and [had] a little bit of nerves. I talked to my coach, and he told me to calm down. He told me I was up by a lot and had nothing to worry about. Just keeping doing my thing and don’t let the nerves get to me. It was good.”
Neal has known Phillips for a long time and has seen her progression on the court. It paid off with a championship. “This is a blessing,” he said. “She’s determined. She hits a nice ball.”