West Deptford earns SJ Group 2 semifinal tennis berth with a win over Delsea

Some of the particulars have changed, but for the third straight year, West Deptford’s girls tennis team has earned a berth in the South Jersey Group 2 semifinals with a win over Delsea.

On Tuesday, sixth-seeded West Deptford defeated third-seeded and host Delsea, 4-1 in a South Jersey Group 2 quarterfinal.

West Deptford (11-6) advanced to Thursday’s semifinal at second-seeded Cumberland, a 4-1 quarterfinal winner over Barnegat.

Here’s a quick history lesson.

This was West Deptford’s third straight win over Delsea in the quarterfinals.

In last year’s quarterfinal, West Deptford defeated Delsea, 4-1. During the 2020 quarterfinal, West Deptford defeated the Crusaders, 3-2.

One thing that changed from last year is that West Deptford senior No. 1 singles player Victoria Connelly reversed the outcome she had a year ago against Delsea junior Emma Salguerio,

In Tuesday’s match, Connelly earned a hard-fought 6-4, 7-5 win. Neither player double-faulted very much and there were some long and highly competitive volleys.

A year ago, these two competed at No. 2 singles, with Delsea’s Salguerio earning a 6-4-6-3 win.

“She (Salguerio) is a very good player, so it really felt good to win today,” Connelly said.

The two No. 1 singles players were the last to finish, but by then West Deptford had already clinched the match. The Eagles got dominating play from their second and third singles players, seniors Melissa Blanchard and Julia Goldberg.

Blanchard won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 singles and Golberg was a 6-0, 6-0 winner at third singles.

Blanchard was much more dominant than she was a year ago, although she was impressive both times. Last year she won at No. 3 singles, 7-5, 7-6.

“When I was on the bus, I was kind of nervous coming in,” Blanchard said.

She didn’t appear that way in the match.

A big part of her success was her serve which had plenty of speed and accuracy.

“I thought my first serve was going to be the key today because of how hard I hit it today,” Blanchard said. “I felt I was very consistent with the serve.”

Goldberg didn’t lose a game in winning at No. 3 singles.

The key?

“My net shots and hitting it deep to her back hand,” she said.

West Deptford’s other win came at No. 2 doubles, where junior Lilly Hoang and senior Kelly Hartman won 6-2, 6-4.

Delsea’s lone win came at No. 1 singles where Margaret McLean and Julianna Baez won 6-3, 6-2.

For West Deptford, this has been the continuation of a big season. The Eagles have already clinched the Colonial Conference Patriot Division and now they are again in the semifinals in a loaded South Jersey Group 2 field.

Delsea (7-8) started just two seniors and led by Salguerio, the Crusaders have a chance to be vastly improved next season.

As for this year, coach Dave Allonardo, entered the match with confidence, but he knew his team, despite the seeding, was the clear underdog.

“They have had our number the past few years and I knew that even though they were a lower seed, that it wouldn’t mean anything,” Allonardo said. “That is a talented West Deptford team.”

And it’s a West Deptford team that is heading to the semifinals for the third consecutive year.

“It was a little extra pressure coming in because of the success we had against Delsea the past two years,” Connelly said. “We really wanted to make sure we beat them and it really feels good.”

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