For Lancaster Catholic’s Riley Smith, Tuesday’s delayed Lancaster-Lebanon League Class 2A tennis championships felt different.
To begin with, Smith’s opponent in the singles final was not graduated teammate — and former doubles partner — Isabelle Midcap like the first three times.
Plus, Lancaster Country Day junior Cassidy Gleiberman is also left-handed like Smith, presenting a different challenge.
The result, however, was the same as it has been for the most part. Playing in her fourth straight final, Smith defended her 2018 championship, winning her third singles title in four years 6-3, 6-0 over Gleiberman at Conestoga Valley.
In the youthful Class 3A singles final, Penn Manor freshman Catherine Rabatin and Manheim Township sophomore Avery Palandjian staged a terrific battle, with Rabatin prevailing 7-5, 2-6, 6-0.
“It feels like a lot of my hard work has paid off and I am definitely really proud of it,” Smith said. “I knew it was going to be a battle of consistency because Cassidy is a great athlete and super consistent.
“It was a different look, but pretty much as tough as playing Isabelle. There aren’t a ton of lefties in the L-L.”
Smith said the patience she showed against Gleiberman was a combination of necessity and maturity.
“I knew I was going to have to hang in there and rally with her. I don’t get as many points off my serve playing against a lefty,” she said. “I think it’s something I have grown with. It’s less pushing the ball and more good, consistent, deep, topspin balls.”
Of course, Smith wasn’t done there as she and new partner, Angelle San Jose, defeated Gleiberman and Sloan Kidan 6-0, 6-3. That win gave Smith a third straight league doubles title, the first two teaming with Midcap.
As for the Class 3A title match, after nearly two hours, Rabatin played a near-perfect third set to win her first L-L title.
“It’s really exciting. It was a great experience,” Rabatin said.
Rabatin got a jump in the opening set, winning the first three games, only to see Palandjian come back with three straight. The duo traded games until Rabatin broke her opponent in the final game.
However, much like her ability to chase down balls and extend points, Palandjian powered back during an impressive second set, opening a 5-1 lead with a pair of breaks before evening the match.
With their regular season match in mind, Rabatin rolled in the final set. She broke Palandjian in the second game, then roared back to win the third, leading to the sweep.
“I was thinking our first match was a really close match and I just had to step up my game, don’t make unforced errors and don’t give her ones she can put away,” Rabatin said. “I feel like I started to get a rhythm more. I couldn’t get a great rhythm in the first or second (set).’’
The daughter of Hempfield Rec instructor Michelle Rabatin, Catherine took up the game at age 8, and began playing in high level tournaments at 11. That experience paid off on Tuesday, especially against an opponent as frustrating to play against as Palandjian.
“Those tournaments really do prepare me because you are getting good girls like Avery,” said Rabatin. “Sometimes you think you hit a good shot, but she can get to everything and runs it down.”
With a fall evening chill in the air under the lights at Conestoga Valley, Palandjian and doubles partner Scotty Reynolds won a thrilling 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) match against Rabatin and Julie Ward for the 3A doubles crown.
After winning the first set, the Blue Streaks duo trailed 2-5 before winning the next three. Once evened up at six games each, the Comets opened a 4-1 lead in the tie breaker, but Township came back to win.