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    Thursday, June 13, 2024

    Waterford’s Sarah Hage makes it 4-for-4 in ECC girls’ tennis finals

    Waterford’s Sarah Hage reacts after winning the Eastern Connecticut Conference girls’ tennis tournament singles final Wednesday at Stonington High School, the fourth of her distinguished career. Hage defeated Stonington’s Grace Duggan 6-1, 6-2. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Waterford’s Sarah Hage, second from left, celebrates with friends and teammates after winning the ECC girls’ tennis tournament singles tennis final Wednesday at Stonington High School. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Stonington’s Grace Duggan returns a ball to Waterford’s Sarah Hage during the ECC girls’ tennis tournament singles tennis final Wednesday. Duggan finished as the ECC runner-up. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Katya Snegovskikh returns makes a return with Stonington teammate Lauren Buckley in the background during their ECC girls' tennis tournament doubles final Wednesday against Stonington’s Angelina Williams and Gwen McGugan. Snegovskikh and Buckley won the match 6-4, 6-3 to repeat as champions. (Dana Jensen/The Day).
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    Stonington — At a little before 5 p.m. Wednesday, it became official: She never did lose a match within the Eastern Connecticut Conference. In four years.

    And per her coach Ed Kolnaski’s research, Sarah Hage became the first girls’ tennis player in league history to be the four-time ECC girls’ singles champion.

    Hage, a Waterford High School senior, dispatched rival Grace Duggan of Stonington 6-1, 6-2 in a rematch of last year’s ECC final.

    “I honestly can’t believe this is real,” Hage said. “On the bus ride over here, I was thinking about my first (final) and how it took three hours and 17 minutes. If you had told me back then I’d be playing for four in a row, I wouldn’t have believed it.”

    And yet it was entirely believable. Hage, whose list of accomplishments also includes never having lost on her home court at Waterford, won eight straight games at one point Wednesday. Consider that the three previous Hage/Duggan matches went three sets, including the most recent before Wednesday that ended in a 10-8 tiebreaker.

    “Every time we’ve played, it’s been so close,” Hage said. “Today, I tried not to be nervous or let my nerves get to me. I took risks. I tried to play more strategically and did things I might not have tried in the regular season.”

    By “strategically,” Hage said she wanted to avoid hitting the ball in the middle of the court.

    “I tried to play more offensively,” she said. “Hit it hard and move the ball around.”

    Hage accepted the ECC championship plaque after being mobbed by her teammates on the court after the match.

    “It’s been awesome to coach her,” Kolnaski said. “She plays the game the right way.”

    Stonington coach George Crouse, while disappointed that Duggan lost, couldn’t have lost in the doubles finals. That’s because it was an all-Stonington production, during which Lauren Buckley and Katya Snegovskikh defeated teammates Gwen McGugan and Angelina Williams 6-4, 6-3.

    The doubles match was also a rematch of last year, with Buckley and Snegovskikh pulling off the repeat.

    “In a competitive sense, I coach one team and Glen (assistant coach Glen Herbert) coaches the other,” Crouse said. “I coached the winners today. But the last two years, I coached the losers.”

    Crouse was very pleased with the approach of Buckley and Snegovskikh.

    “They hit the ball at angles,” he said, “and kept the pressure on until there were errors.”

    The CIAC team tennis championships begin next week, culminating Thursday.

    m.dimauro@theday.com

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