It may have taken four hours, but Mariely Hassey said it was all worth it.
The Centennial sophomore battled Gilbert Mesquite’s No. 2 seed Erica Medlin for three hours through three sets then dispatched Mesa Hamilton’s No. 5 seed Lidia Csernak in straight sets (6-0, 6-1) to win the Division I state singles title at Paseo Racquet Center in Glendale.
“The school is so proud of her,” said coach Barbara Saunders. “She’s is going to be the toast of Centennial for a while.”
But it wasn’t easy for the tournament’s No. 3 seed. Hassey not only faced a familiar foe, she had to work through a tough early match wind. She dropped the first set 4-6, but rallied back as the wind calmed down and the temprature climbed to take the next two sets, 6-3, 6-4 to claim a spot in the finals.
Saunders said that was Hassey’s first three-hour match of the season.
“That’s the reason why we work so much on exercising and running,” Hassey said. “But what was really tough was the wind. I had to adjust for it early in the match, then when it dropped I had to readjust to no wind.”
Hassey received an hour after the semifinals while Csernak won her match against Scottsdale Desert Mountain’s No. 8-seed Kristi Lee in straight sets, giving her ample time to rest. It wouldn’t help the Hamilton sophomore.
Hassey stayed aggressive against Csernak who struggled throughout the game. For the Coyote star, that was her game plan from the start despite being fatigued from the semifinal match.
“Between matches my dad told me ‘You can do this,’” Hassey said. “‘You can rest when its all over.’ So going into the finals I just tried my hardest and tried to get everything in. I think I was just more aggressive today than normal.”
This was Hassey’s first season with the Centennial tennis program. Last year, she attended Paradise Honors High School in Surprise — a charter school that does not have an athletics program. So, in order to compete, she transferred to Centennial.
For Saunders, who watched Centennial’s Paige Lindsley win the school’s first individual state championship in 2006, it wasn’t a complete surprise to see her top singles player win a state title in her first season of high school tennis.
“I was hoping she’d make it this far,” Saunders said. “I certainly thought it was a strong possibility. I knew of her talent coming in and knew her level of play. You hate to put that kind of pressure on a kid but she could absolutely take it.”