Familiar foes clash in final at Post-Tribune Tennis Classic
By Dave Melton Post-Tribune correspondent July 28, 2013 11:20PM
Katee Sanderson of Wheatfield competes in the women's open final against her sister, Molly, at the Post-Tribune Tennis Classic at Valparaiso University on Sunday, July 28, 2013. | Michael Gard~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: August 30, 2013 6:58AM
VALPARAISO — Any athlete with an older sibling can identify with the situation that 15-year old Molly Sanderson was facing on Sunday at the 2013 Post-Tribune Tennis Classic.
After losing the first set of the Women’s Open Singles championship match, she fell behind 5-1 and was facing match point in the second set. Her opponent? Molly’s older sister, 21-year old Katee Sanderson.
“I thought, I could freak out right now, and double fault,” joked Molly, who’ll begin high school at Kankakee Valley this fall. “But I somehow got the serve in, got it back to deuce and then I thought that maybe I could actually do this.”
Molly won the next three games to make it 5-4 in the second set. But, in a back-and-forth final game, Katee outlasted her younger sister to take the match 6-0, 6-4.
“It’s different when you play your sibling. Any other time I’m cheering for her. I’m her coach in high school, and I want to see her do well,” said Katee, whose tennis career included four years at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer. “She gave me a real good run in the second set; I’m proud of her. After the first set, and being down 5-1, she showed how mentally tough she was. She really came back and fought.”
The championship participants in the Men’s Open Singles championship were no strangers, either. Michael Woodson was a senior on the tennis team at Valparaiso University when Leonard Matthews was searching for colleges while at Merrillville High School.
“We recruited Leonard a little bit,” said Woodson. “I’d played doubles with him in this tournament a few years ago, too. But I’d never played against him.”
Both Matthews and Woodson cruised through their first two tournament matches in straight sets, but Woodson knew Matthews was going to provide a different challenge in the final.
“Leonard is so fast. My strategy was to be consistent. I knew I had to be patient and wait for my opportunities,” said Woodson, the son of former VU baseball coach Tracy Woodson. “I like to get to the net, but charging the net on the first ball against Leonard is a terrible idea. I was just trying to stay patient.”
Woodson’s tactics worked, as he gained the title over Matthews with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
“(Woodson) is smart. He was super consistent and his shots were very smart,” said Matthews, who’ll be entering his sophomore year at Indiana Wesleyan University this fall. “Usually, the college guys, they all play with power. But he took the pace off and was way smarter than a lot of those players.”