The Cape-Atlantic League Individual Tournament will welcome a new singles champion today at 4 p.m. at Vineland High School.
Holy Spirit graduate Adrienne Kaye held down the title for the previous three seasons. A new champion will emerge with Kaye, the three-time Press Player of the Year, now at Tusculum College in Tennessee.
Oakcrest's Connie Capone hopes to be the one holding the trophy at the end of the day. The 17-year-old Mays Landing resident finally broke through to the final by beating Ocean City's No. 1 player, Gabby DuBruille, and the Red Raiders' No. 2, Leah Kornberg, in the quarterfinals and semifinals Wednesday.
As a sophomore, Capone reached the quarterfinals. She then ran into Kaye in the semifinals as a junior.
Today, Capone will face Egg Harbor Township sophomore Katie Garthaus in the final.
"Connie came back this year with the desire to improve on last season and so far she's been good on that," Oakcrest coach Tony Ponzetti said Wednesday. "I have a lot of respect for Ocean City and their team. To beat Gabby and Leah on the same day is pretty special for our program."
Capone earned 22 victories this season, giving her 70 for her career.
After losing her first two matches of the season, Capone wasn't worried. She knew she'd be at her strongest toward the end of the season, which showed when she beat Garthaus 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 on Oct. 17. Garthaus won their first matchup 6-1, 6-3.
Since Oct. 12, Capone has won 10 straight matches. Ponzetti, who has been with the program for 10 years, said he couldn't recall the last time an Oakcrest player had reached the final or won it.
"My play has gotten stronger over time and as of right now I'm very steady and I'm agressive when I need to be, and that's what is keeping me up there (at a high level)," Capone said. "I'm out-hitting the other girls and in tough moments I come out on top, and that's my strength right now."
Meanwhile, Garthaus earned four straight-set victories for an appearance in the finals. She upset top-seeded Nicole Fahringer of Mainland Regional 6-3, 6-0 in the semifinals.
Garthaus has had immediate success this year after moving up from third singles to first. She is 22-4 on the season.
The 15-year-old from the Scullville section of EHT is the first Eagle to reach the final since Karisse Bendijo won it in 2007 and 2008.
"This is exceeding my expectatons," Garthaus said. "I'm a sophomore and I didn't expect to be in this position. I'm going to try my best (today) and come out with a victory."
All-Mainland doubles final
For the second time in three years, Mainland's doubles teams will compete against each other for the crown.
In 2010, the first-doubles team of Erin Hanlon and Tamar Lewkowitz edged Lauren Devine and Nicole Nardi 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.
Coach Kathy Yohe believes this year's matchup will be just as close.
Junior Haley Krachman and sophomore Rachel Rha are 19-2 at first doubles. Junior Katie Rha, Rachel's older sister, and sophomore Cassidy Scott are 20-2 overall - including 2-1 in three matches when they moved up to first doubles due to injuries. At individual tournaments, Katie Rha and Scott have five victories over first-doubles teams.
"They hit all the time together and their challenge match went to three sets, so they're really close (in ability)," Yohe said. "I think it's going to be a good match. It's going to be hard to watch because as a coach you want them all to do well, but there can only be one winner."
Contact Kelly Ashe:
Nicole Fahringer, Mainland d. Linsey Gabris, Cedar Creek 6-1, 6-1; Katie Garthaus, EHT d. Amanda Goff, Sacred Heart 7-5, 6-3; Connie Capone, Oakcrest d. Gabby DuBruille, Ocean City 4-6, 6-0, 6-3; Leah Kornberg, Ocean City d. Bridget Dandrea, OLMA 6-2, 6-3.
Garthaus d. Fahringer 6-3, 6-0; Capone d. Kornberg 6-2, 6-1.
Katie Rha-Cassidy Scott, Mainland d. Eva Nusbaum-Olivia Pawling, Ocean City 6-2, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3); Valerie Garofalo-Julia Dalzell, Holy Spirit d. Jess Danks-Mackenzie Goddard, Cedar Creek 6-4, 6-4; Lauren Cavallo-Katie O'Rourke, Sacred Heart d. Maria Ibarra-Christine Pao, EHT 6-3, 3-6, 6-4; Haley Krachman-Rachel Rha, Mainland d. Rachel Filippone-Hira Zeb, Oakcrest 6-2, 6-2.
K. Rha-Scott d. Garofalo-Dalzell 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; Krachman-R. Rha d. Cavallo-O'Rourke 6-2, 7-5.