HARWICH – Monomoy Regional High School girls tennis coach Bill Burke couldn’t have predicted how well his team would perform this spring. After all, Burke didn’t even know some of the players a couple months ago.
“We had some players that I didn’t even know existed that came out for the team,” he said. “Some freshmen and some juniors that came out of nowhere and brought a lot of talent and a lot of spirit. This year’s team is a good mix of complete newcomers who brought some skills and veterans who have been here for a while.”
That combination has worked wonders. The Sharks improved to 6-1 on the season after earning a 4-1 victory over Nantucket on Friday afternoon at Brooks Park in Harwich.
Monomoy’s top singles player — Julia Smith, a senior captain from South Dennis — earned 6-4, 6-1 victories, while the Sharks’ third singles player, junior Angelica Velasquez, earned 6-0, 6-0 wins. Both of Monomoy’s doubles teams were victorious, as the top pairing of junior Olivia Prisco and freshman Tatiana Malone recorded 6-0, 6-0 wins and the second tandem of senior Aliza Pillsbury and Christie Beckley notched 6-2, 6-3 victories.
Nantucket junior Emily Dussault earned the lone win for the visitors, defeating Monomoy freshman Lilly Gould, 5-7, 6-3, 7-4, in their second singles match. Even in defeat, Burke praised Gould for being a key addition that has helped the Sharks experience so much success thus far.
“I had never met her before,” Burke said of Gould. “She just arrived on the team and brought a lot of talent and spirit to the club.”
Malone is another freshman who has impressed.
“She has incredible talent,” the coach said. “I think the first doubles team we have is the strongest in the league, easily.”
Malone admits that getting acclimated to playing doubles alongside Prisco hasn’t been easy. The duo get along, but sharing the court has been a change for the first-year Shark.
“I usually played singles before this year, but the coach asked me to play doubles,” Malone said. “When I got out there, we just worked together well. Sharing the court and knowing when to hit it can be a challenge sometimes.”
Smith sets the tone at the top of the team’s lineup, serving as a veteran in her fifth year with the program. She said the entire team likes to have fun — though that doesn’t get in the way of the players’ preparation.
The Sharks have fostered a culture of pushing each other in practice. Still, even with a competitive fire spreading throughout the team, the players and Burke remain committed to helping each other improve.
“I think during practice we just take it seriously,” Smith said. “We also have fun, but we give each other pointers and help each other out. Our coach also helps us so much. We all just work together to focus on the certain things that we’re not good at so we are prepared for when the match comes.”
Although Burke is quick to praise the contributions of his underclassmen and juniors, the coach also noted that the team’s success wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of Smith and Pillsbury.
“I’ve seen a lot of teams where seniors missed the year as a junior and then kind of blew this year off,” Burke said. “So, I’m really happy for our two seniors that came back.”
For Smith, it was an easy decision to return. She has been playing tennis since she was 6 years old and intends to try out at Endicott College next year.
But before the senior looks ahead to playing at the next level, she’s going to enjoy the final few weeks of her high school career playing for what she believes is the best team she’s been a part of.
“I know our record hasn’t been the best the last couple years, but I think the team this year has been as good as ever,” Smith said. “This year has been the best year, honestly.”
Burke may not have been able to predict how much success his new group of players would experience at the beginning of the season, but now the coach is eager for a new set of challenges against unknown opponents in the postseason.
“We’re excited,” Burke said when asked about the state tournament. “We have a good record, so we’re better than a lot of the teams in our league. We’re really looking forward to some more challenging matches to see what’s out there.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org