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Manchester Central's Leclerc wins girls tennis singles title -- for her city

Jun. 7—Emily Leclerc went to the notebook before her state championship singles match.

She keeps it in her tennis bag. It's filled with reminders about technique as well as mental notes and inspirations. Never give up on a match and represent your school, Manchester Central, and city well, the notebook tells her.

After coming close the past two springs, Leclerc followed her notes on Tuesday when she won the singles title at Southern New Hampshire University, beating Sophia Correnti of Derryfield School in the final. The championship wasn't just for herself or her school, she said.

Leclerc won it for Manchester, said the senior.

"It meant a lot," Leclerc said. "I actually started crying after I won, which I was not expecting. I don't really cry a lot but it just sort of hit me."

Leclerc, who went 19-0 in singles play this season, entered the two-day tournament as the No. 1 seed and won four matches to win the title.

As a sophomore, she lost, 6-2, 6-1, to Merrimack's Shu Grosso in the final. Last year, Leclerc fell, 6-2, 6-0, in the semifinals to eventual champion Polina Makarenko of Winnacunnet.

"I felt like I had a really good chance," Leclerc said of this year's tournament. "I thought as long as my mind stayed straight and I kept doing what I was doing the rest of the season, I knew that I had a good chance, for sure."

The first three rounds of the tournament were held on June 1. The semifinals and finals were on Tuesday.

As the top seed, Leclerc earned a bye and got to watch her second-round opponent, Sofia Koshy, a Derryfield School sophomore, play in the opening round.

Leclerc, who will play at Division III Endicott College next year, then defeated Koshy, 8-3, in the first-ever meeting between the two.

While she never felt in danger of losing the match, Leclerc said it was helpful to open the tournament having to fight a little. She took an early lead in the match but had a lull in the middle before closing out the win.

Leclerc said she was "patiently aggressive" against Koshy. "Not overdoing it or overexerting myself — just keeping it solid and trying to stay smart with my play," she said.

Leclerc then defeated Exeter's Katie Rocha, 8-1, to cap her first day of the tournament.

When play resumed on Tuesday, Leclerc battled to earn her 6-0, 6-4 semifinal triumph over fourth-seeded Justine Porowski of Keene.

Porowski hit some solid winners and moved well while Leclerc felt her serve did not hold up throughout the match.

"I think having to fight in that second set helped prepare me mentally for the final, so I actually think it benefitted me that I had to play a little bit longer," Leclerc said. "Even if it was a little bit stressful, I think it helped."

During her 25-minute break before the final, Leclerc took a breather, had some water and consulted her notebook, mostly to review her reminders about her serve technique.

She was not surprised to learn that second-seeded Correnti, a Derryfield junior, was her opponent. Correnti had only one singles loss during the NHIAA team season — against Leclerc, 8-5.

"I thought it would take something a little bit crazy for it to not be us in the final," Leclerc said.

Leclerc won the first set, 6-3, before dropping the second, 2-6. That forced a first-to-10-points tiebreaker set, which Leclerc won, 10-3.

Playing against Correnti over the past few seasons, Leclerc has learned that she needs to feel confident during those matches. She has also learned not to return Correnti's high volleys with force.

Correnti played more aggressive than usual and served well in the final, Leclerc said. Like Leclerc did in the first set, Correnti took an early lead that she never surrendered in the second.

Leclerc said she played more aggressively in the tiebreaker set, which helped her win nine of the first 10 points. Correnti won the next two to make it 9-3 before Leclerc clinched the victory.

"I felt like I had worked really hard for it, especially this past year," Leclerc said of the title, "and being so close the two years before ... getting it my senior year obviously is a big relief, honestly, and it felt like a huge accomplishment."

Lebanon senior Nolan Arado won the boys singles tournament, defeating Bedford's Logan Mack, 7-5, 6-3, in the final on Tuesday.

ahall@unionleader.com