HARWICH – It didn’t matter how far the fourth-seeded Monomoy girls tennis team advanced in the Division 4 state tournament, the team had already cemented itself as one of — if not the best — team in program history.
Monomoy coach Bill Burke first recognized he had a great team when the group started preseason practices, and the players continued to impress their coach all the way until the state quarterfinals, where their season ended with a 4-1 loss to No. 21 Uxbridge on Saturday at Brooks Park.
“I knew we were good right from the beginning,” Burke said. “We were really deep and our 1-7 starters are all very talented. Our doubles teams have been awesome; second doubles was undefeated throughout everything. They were really tough, and then singles usually found a way to win.”
Monomoy’s second doubles team comprised of senior Jade Kennedy and junior Alyson Morris earned a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Uxbridge juniors Abby Sanches and Ella Haker for the Sharks’ lone win in the quarterfinals.
Two days earlier, the Monomoy girls showed Burke just how tough they were when they battled to a 4-1 win over No. 13 Ipswich in the Round of 16.
That was an eye-opening match for Burke, who said all of his players elevated their game.
“Four out of the five matches went three sets and they were down in most of those third sets and came back — that’s very hard to do in tennis,” the coach said. “I knew they were resilient and it was really the Ipswich match where I saw everyone play better than I had ever seen any one of them play.”
Ask Monomoy’s seniors what stood out about this group and they’ll point to the team’s togetherness.
“I think the best thing about this team is how we work with one another and we play with one another, not against one another,” said Kennedy, a Chatham resident set to enroll at Salve Regina in the fall. “We’re always supportive and always there until the very last second of the game.”
Angelica Velasquez, a UConn-bound senior from Harwich, agreed with Kennedy’s assessment. Velasquez’s first doubles partner, Olivia Prisco, a senior from Harwich heading to Lasell, shared the same sentiments.
“I’ll definitely remember each girl and the amazing bond we all had,” Velasquez said. “We all play great together and as a team. I think we’ve come really far and I’m really proud of this.”
Added Prisco: “The thing I’m going to remember most is our connection with each other and our friendship. We’ve been so close from the beginning and we have the best sportsmanship.”
Although the three departing seniors will be missed next spring, the cupboard will hardly be bare for the Sharks. The team returns Morris as well as all three singles players — No. 1 Tatiana Malone, No. 2 Lilly Gould and No. 3 Jocelyn White.
Malone and Gould are both rising juniors, while White will return as a senior.
“We have to reload a little bit with the three seniors [graduating], but I’m very confident moving into next year,” Burke said. “With the core that we have, our No. 1, 2 and 3 singles will all be back, so we’re looking forward to next year.”
The coach praised Malone, in particular, for the way she battled against opponents’ top singles player despite being an underclassman.
“That’s the hardest position on the team because you get the best player out of everyone and she fought through and got some good wins,” he said. “The unsung hero of the team, I think, was Tatiana.”
Throughout the entire season — from the early-season matches in the cold to Saturday’s finale under the baking sun — Burke said the team’s parents and family and substitute players all offered tremendous support.
“I need to tip my cap to the family and parents — they’ve been with us the whole year, and especially in that Ipswich match,” the coach said. “And then all of the players who weren’t starters this year really supported the team. We carried 17 on the team and we had 10 players ready to jump in and they were all really supportive.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.