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Millbrook Freshmen advance to Cap-8 semifinals

By Evan Moesta, 10/13/15, 7:45PM EDT

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Freshmen, Brianna Taranto and Shea Cirillo keep shining for the Wildcats on the biggest of stages. Both girls went 2-0 on the first day of the Cap-8 Women's Tennis tournament with singles victories over girls from Enloe, Heritage, and Sanderson.

Taranto (9-5 this season) drew the #2 seed in the singles portion of the tournament and faced Enloe's Cat Battle in the first round. Battle had played this season as the Eagles' #2 singles player. Brianna would dispatch of the fellow Freshman rather easily in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0.

Two courts over, Shea Cirillo (10-4 this season) embarked on her first round match as the tournament's #5 seed. It was a very familiar foe for Cirillo who has played in all but one match this season as Millbrook's #2. Janelle Maffucci was her opponent and it would be the third time that these two girls squared off against each other. Shea won the first go around by a score of 6-1, 6-3, and the second 6-4, 6-4. In the first set it was all Cirillo as she won 6-1. Maffucci would get things even early on in the second set by tying things up at 2-2 but a pair of well placed shots from the Wildcat Freshman helped take the lead back and from there it was all Millbrook as Shea won her first round match in straight sets as well, 6-1, 6-3.

While Cirillo quickly prepared for her second round matchup, Taranto had to wait on a battle of Heritage's Alexandria Scott and Sanderson's Hawthorne Buck to conclude. As the match started to venture into the second rounds, a pair of Millbrook seniors were still in a doubles battle vs. Wakefield.

Katie LeFevre and Hannah Shifman battled as the #8 seed against Lilah Ivey and Hanna Anderson. The Wolverine duo took the first set 6-2 and got up 6-5 in the second set before the Wildcats would make a comeback. LeFevre dropped a pair of shots by Ivey to force a second set tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Millbrook would find new life to stay alive in the tournament. Shifman and LeFevre won 7-5 and forced a third and final set. In the end, it would be Anderson/Ivey that would take home the victory, 10-4 in the third set but it did not come without a fight from two Wildcats that were playing in their final high school match. Mackinley Sloan and Rachel Gittelman also fell short in their doubles match as they had some tough luck in drawing one of Broughton's top duos in Austin/Burrus who would win in straight sets.

Back on the singles courts, Taranto and Cirillo would have to go through a pair of Spartans in Sanderson's Hawthorne Buck and Kate Griffin. For both girls it would be their first time squaring off against either girl. Cirillo entered 0-2 vs. Sanderson this season and Taranto came in 1-1. Brianna would take an early 1-0 lead while Cirillo fell behind early, 2-1. Small errors and a pair of misplayed balls put Shea in a tough hole early on and Griffin then extended her lead to 5-2 and eventually 6-2 which would be the score of the first set.

It was much more smoother sailing for Brianna on court 9 as she found a groove following a 2-1 lead from Buck. The Wildcats' top singles player this season stormed back to take a 4-2 lead en route to locking up the first set victory, 6-3. It was looking like Coach Dauphinais would be sending one girl to the semi-finals of the tournament as Cirillo fell behind 5-2 again in the second set. Kate Griffin was cruising towards the victory in straight sets as she took a 40-15 lead. With her season on the line, one of Millbrook's most consistent players all season dug deep and made an improbable comeback to not only come back from being down 40-15, but she ended up taking the lead 6-5 in the match en route to knotting things up at 1-1 with the 7-5 second set win.

"I tried hard to come back in the second set. She (Griffin) was playing really well and I found myself making some mental errors. Being down 5-2 and 40-15 was tough. I had to stop and calm down and think through my serve on that potential match point. I relaxed my nerves, cleared my mind and I just went ahead and played the ball."

Brianna Taranto would be the first to punch her ticket to the semi-finals with a win in straight sets. After falling 4-2 to Buck, she won four unanswered for the second set victory 6-4. Her 6-0, 6-0 win vs. Battle and her 6-3, 6-4 win vs. Buck have set her up for a semi-finals match vs. Broughton's Hunter Cox on Wednesday afternoon. It will be the third time that these two girls meet. Taranto is 2-0 vs. Cox with a win in straight sets, 7-5, 7-5 back in August and a 2-1 win, 5-7, 6-1, 0-0 (10-7) two weeks ago.

As has been the case for most of the season, all eyes turned back to Shea Cirillo who was the last girl standing. Her resiliency has shown all season and all that stood between her and an improbable comeback victory was a tiebreaker vs. Griffin. Cirillo jumped out to the early lead and maintained her strong play in one of the afternoon's closest battles with the 11-9 victory to move on to the semi-finals.

"My goal was to keep the ball in and stay consistent. I had to mix up a "hard hitting" game with some lobs and some shots with heavy top spin at the baseline. By mixing it up, I eventually came out of it victorious. I always tell myself that it's not over until the last point and today pretty much summed that up."

The win now gives Cirillo 12 singles victories this season and Taranto is on her heels with 11. Along with advancing to the semi-finals, both girls have qualified to play in the 4A Mideastern Regional next week at Millbrook Exchange Park. Tomorrow's semi-final pits the four remaining singles players up against each other, and the Wildcats are the only team to send two girls to the semi-finals. Standing in the way of a Cap-8 Championship appearance in the tournament for Brianna Taranto is Hunter Cox of Broughton and for Shea Cirillo, it is Wakefield's Susanne Boyden who is the back-to-back 4A singles State Champion. In regular season play, Boyden has only lost one career match. For more information, follow Millbrook Women's Tennis on Twitter at @MHSWomensTennis.