NORTH TONAWANDA — It may not be ideal, but the Lockport girls tennis team is glad to be back.
The Lady Lions took down North Tonawanda 4-1 in a battle of top-tier Niagara Frontier League rivals Friday at the Taber Place courts. Lockport (4-1, 4-1 NFL) closed out a long week of action, wrapping up a slate filled with five matches in a six-day span.
The Lady Lions really took control with wins on the singles side courtesy Abigail Alex and Skylar Hill. Alex would take 6-0 and 6-1 sets over NT's Madelyn Ringler in first singles before Hill downed Sara DiNardo by scores of 7-5 and 6-3.
The Lady Jacks (3-2, 3-2 NFL) would see their lone match win from Megan Orlowski, who defeated Shannon Bull in consecutive 6-3 sets.
In the end, Lockport was too strong overall, claiming wins in both doubles matches. The Barbopouloses, Marina and Marissa, followed a 6-2 loss to Allison Lang and Samantha Wachowicz in the first set with 6-4 and 7-5 victories.
Sydney Goerss and Hadiya McClain also had a tough battle for the Lady Lions, but they were able to edge out the Lady Jacks' Autumn Bukowsky and Emily Peace, 6-4 and 7-5.
Alex, a senior member of Lockport's squad, noted how quickly this season has gone by, as Lockport only has one remaining match before the NFL doubles qualifier. She has had fun with her team, especially with now that competitive matches are underway.
Lockport's first singles player admitted how "weird" it was to have the start of the season come in September rather than August, but it just adds to what has already been one of the oddest school years in memory.
"We would usually start in August and we had honestly like a decent amount of time before we had our first match," said Alex, who now sits at 5-0 in singles play this season. "And then we'd play every team twice, usually. So this is the only time I'm ever gonna see these (North Tonawanda) girls and that's gonna be that. But I can't complain, I'm glad we're playing. This whole year's gonna be weird. School in general's just weird with all this mask stuff."
Lockport head coach Tim Trotter has helped develop a roster filled with first-year varsity players after losing a flood of seniors following the 2019-20 school year. Although there are four seniors for the Lady Lions, Trotter is excited to see his young players learning on the fly as they play varsity much sooner than expected.
Despite an imperfect, jam-packed schedule, Trotter commended the NFL for turning around a season slate in such a quick manner.
"I think the league's done a good job in trying to work our schedule as best as they can to get the practices that we needed," Trotter said. "Because we had to have 10 practices before they could play. And then to get as many matches in as possible before the weather starts to turn. ...
"So one time through the league instead of twice is the sacrifice you make there. But I think the girls are just happy to be out and playing right now and to be able to get some kind of season in."
For NT, Ringler sees the growth her team has made since the first day of tryouts on Sept. 21. The sophomore added how her squad is learning new strategies to attack the ball, which she hopes will get the Lady Jacks back in the win column.
Having played second doubles alongside Dinardo last fall, it has been a step up for Ringler going to the spotlight position of first singles.
"It's definitely a lot, stressful," Ringler said. "I went from second doubles all the way to first singles, and that's like the lowest on varsity. And I had to learn new strategies on how to hit the ball harder and different serves. So it was a lot (more) stressful and I had to work a lot harder."
NT head coach John LeMar talked about how his team also had five games in a six-day span, which followed 10 practice days in an 11-day run. Thinking about the fast approaching end of the season, LeMar shared how his girls will have played seven matches in a week and a half.
Although he and the girls are grateful to be back, LeMar wishes he had a bit more time to mold a roster this young.
"This is a year where I really wish with some of my young players. ... It would be nice to have a few more practice days during the season," LeMar said. "When you start to play matches you start to see what's going well and what isn't going well and what you can practice. So it would've been nice to have few more practices."
Lockport will reconvene at 4:15 p.m. Tuesday when Lew-Port comes in for a visit. NT closes out its league schedule the same time on Wednesday at Niagara Wheatfield.
Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, be sure to listen to the GNN Sports Podcast, on Spotify, Anchor, Apple Podcasts and more.