Brianna Taranto and Shea Cirillo have combined to play 15 singles matches in the last 8 days. The heavy load of tennis culminated in a 2nd and 3rd place finish in the 2015 Cap-8 Tournament.
With thrilling wins yesterday afternoon (read about it HERE), both girls faced off against a pair of the conference's top #1 players in Broughton's Hunter Cox and Wakefield's Susanne Boyden. Taranto jumped out to a 2-1 lead over Cox. This would be the third time that the two girls squared off. Having won the first two times around, Brianna knew Wednesday's matchup wouldn't be easy.
"I had to choose my shots wisely and not panic. I knew that if I played my style and executed that I would be successful. Hunter is a really good player and I'm glad that I was able to jump out to an early lead"
Speaking of a match that wouldn't be easy, Cirillo was a court over having to battle with the two time 4A singles state champion in Susanne Boyden. The Wolverine senior got up 3-0 early in the match before Cirillo would drop a pair of shots by her to make it a very competitive fourth match.
While Shea was trying to build on her momentum, Taranto was wrapping up her first set againts Cox. She put herself one victory away from going to the championship with a 6-1 first set win. Cox would come back to provide a much tougher battle in the second set. After a 2-1 second set lead from Taranto, the Capital Junior came back to lead 3-2 and eventually 5-4. This singles matchup was proving to be one of the most exciting of the afternoon.
Back on the main court, the top seeded Boyden was in the second set with Shea Cirillo where she would have her way with Millbrook's #2 player. Susanne Boyden would move to 16-1 this season with a win a straight sets, 6-0, 6-0 over Cirillo who fell to 12-5 during her freshman campaign. That loss ended Shea's remarkable run over the last 48 hours and Coach Dauphinais was very proud of how she approached a match against one of the state's finest.
"Shea had some great shots all week... even going back to our last regular season game on Monday when she won in three sets vs. Leesville. She had smart, well placed shots, and she never gave up. Her perseverance and hard work got her to this point... I mean, she was down to match point twice yesterday and she managed to comeback to put herself in this situation, so she needs to keep her head held high because she had a phenomenal week of tennis for us."
There would be no consolation match for Cirillo, so she effectively grabbed 3rd Place in the tournament with the loss. That left things in the hands of Brianna Taranto to try to secure one of top two spots in the tournament. She would rebound from being down 5-4 to win the second set 7-5 and punch her ticket to the championship match vs. Susanne Boyden. It would be the third time that the freshman would battle Boyden this season and for Brianna, she looks forward to facing competition of that caliber.
"I actually like facing somebody like her. I like her style of play and i've looked up to her over the last few years. Seeing my sister (Savannah) play against her last year really made me want to get a shot at her (Boyden) so to play her for the championship was nice.... as far as approaching the match, I just focus on being me, along with trying to pretend that it's not Susanne on the other side."
Taranto would end up giving her the toughest battle of the tournament as she jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first set. Boyden would rebound by taking leads of 2-1, and 3-2 but it wouldn't come without lots of frustration from the senior. Taranto managed to match her, nearly shot for shot early on, but the reigning champion ended up being just too much to handle as she would win the first set 6-3, and the second, 6-0 to win the conference championship. Coach Dauphinais really liked how her girls responded to such tough competition, and she says that it really reflects how strong the tennis program at Millbrook is to have two of the top four girls in the tournament be Wildcats, and freshmen in that.
"The message for most of the season has been to not count yourself out of a match that you haven't even began. For Brianna, she knew what to expect out of Susanne with this being her third time around with her... but for a girl like Shea to hang in there, and not be intimidated was good to see. We are very lucky to have these two girls in our program, and for them to excel on a stage like this has really shown the rest of the Cap-8 how talented Millbrook High School is, and how talented we will be for years to come, I am thrilled that Shea and Brianna are going to be a fixture in our program for the next three years. Having such talented freshmen really sets the standard here and for next year's girls, their success will be something to look up to and to aspire for."
For both girls, their semi-final appearances have earned them Cap-8 All-Conference merits, and they have earned a spot in next week's 4A Mideastern Regionals. Regionals will be held on Friday and Saturday, the first round of play will begin at Millbrook Exchange Park and the second round will move down the road to Sanderson High School. If either girl makes it through the regional tournament, they will qualify to play in the 4A State Championship tournament that will be on October 30th and 31st. To qualify for State Championship, either girl will have to place in the top four of the mideastern regional.
For more information, follow Millbrook Women's Tennis on Twitter at @MHSWomensTennis.