Liza Klyachkin had been there before.
This was the third time in the past four years the Stratford junior had been in the championship match of the GISA state individual tennis tournament.
Unfortunately for Klyachkin, the third appearance did not produce a victory. Klyachkin fell 6-3, 6-3 to Augusta Prep’s Brooke Stevens at the John Drew Smith Tennis Center, ending her season one win away from the title.
“Every time I hit the ball short, she just pounded the ball,” said Klyachkin of the 5-foot-10 eighth grader. “I knew in my mind that I had to keep the ball deep on her, but it just didn’t work out.
“I had seen her play one time before, and I knew she was extremely talented and that I would have to play well to beat her. I always felt like I was one game away from really being in the match, and then I would go up 30 or 40 to love, but she just found ways to get out of it and win the game. It got frustrating after a while. All I can say is that she is very good. She was on (Monday) and hit some amazing winners.”
If Klyachkin is looking for a rematch, she probably won't have to wait for long, as there is a good chance the two will see each other this Wednesday in Augusta in the GISA team championships.
“I would like to play a little better and maybe she won't play quite as good,” Klyachkin said. “I know that next time I will play things a little smarter and just try not to rip it through her because I don’t think that will work. It will be a good challenge for me.”
Westfield’s girls doubles team of Erin McLure and Ellen Grier fell 6-4, 7-5 to Augusta Prep’s Mary Hamilton Reynolds and Madeline Sims.
“I thought we did all we could to win,” McLure said. “It was just one of those back-and-forth matches. We had the lead early in the first set but couldn’t hold it, and then we tied them at five in the second set and I thought we would be OK. They just played the big points a little bit better.”
McLure, a senior, had teamed with Grier, a junior, for the past two seasons.
“I really wanted her to get a state championship since this is her last year,” Grier said. “She is a great competitor, and we really thought we would be able to get it to the third set. I think if we could have done that, we had a great chance to win.”