Varsity Girls Tennis Defeats Defending New England Champion, Hotchkiss
The Varsity Girls Tennis Team made the long trip to Lakeville, CT to take on the reigning New England champion, Hotchkiss, on Saturday. With wet weather blowing outside, match play took place on Hotchkiss’s three indoor courts. Due to the late start and limited court space, the teams agreed to play a modified format of eight game pro sets at both doubles and singles.
Deerfield did themselves no favors early on, surrendering all three doubles points to Hotchkiss. Credit goes to the Bearcat doubles pairings for coming out of the gate fast and winning these matches with aggressive net play and excellent movement. As these contests finished, Deerfield’s squad was looking up a mountain. The margin of error had become slim if they were to earn the win.
The competition was tight at every singles position. Ashley Manning’s second singles battle was a test of her patience and strategy. Facing off with another talented veteran, Manning played to her strengths and managed to outmaneuver and outlast Hotchkiss’s Grace Kennedy. Three lead changes kept the match undetermined throughout. Ashley needed to notch nine wins to put this one away. With her win, DA slowed Hotchkiss’s momentum and inched closer to closing the three point gap.
Isha Rao took on Hotchkiss’s number one, Savannah Roberts. These two players exchanged shots with immense pace. Roberts, a talented athlete, set up some beautiful winners throughout this contest. However, Isha’s relentless baseline play is a force when paired with her methodical net game. Rao built an early three game lead and never really opened the door for a comeback as she closed on eight games. This match went for Deerfield, 8-3. With the score now 2-3, DA’s squad began to see a path to victory.
Emma Weech faced off with a consistent and well-disciplined Hotchkiss opponent at third singles. Several times throughout this match, Emma had to pivot her strategy to hold on to a slim lead. Breaking Hotchkiss’s Virginia Barnes’ serve in the 13th game, Emma pulled away. Finishing out the match with confident baseline strokes, Emma evened the scoreboard at three all!
Sophia Genender continues to keep crowds on the edge of their seats with her dramatic come-from-behind wins. At fourth singles, Sophia found herself down 3-0 at the second changeover. Resetting her approach, Sophia shifted into a higher gear and pulled off six straight wins before giving up another game. Genender has developed into a powerful and well-rounded player. Once her objective comes into focus, she can be unstoppable. Sophia’s 8-4 win gave Deerfield the lead for the first time all day.
Tori Waterfall’s fifth singles match featured long, intense rallies. Deerfield held the lead for most of this contest. Hotchkiss kept pace long enough to make a run as the player’s closed on eight wins. Tying the match there. Hotchkiss won in a tight tiebreaker 8-6.
Fittingly, this hotly contested match came down to the final set. Catalina Llorente needed a win at sixth singles for Deerfield to go home with the victory. Leading by two games throughout much of the set, her steady, well-grooved strokes kept her in control. As the full match entered its third hour, Catalina increased the pace of her ground strokes to keep her Hotchkiss opponent on the run. It isn’t easy to win when everything rides on the last match. This is second time Catalina has found herself in this position in two years, and both times she has come through for her team.
The team had an incredible week, knocking off two perennial powerhouses in four days. Both matches required spectacular grit and teamwork. A short respite is in store with no match scheduled for this Wednesday. Deerfield’s unbeaten squad sets its sights on Loomis Chaffee, who will visit on Saturday, May 4th.
- Isha Rao, W 8-3
- Ashley Manning, W 9-7
- Emma Weech, W 8-6
- Sophia Genender, W 8-4
- Tori Waterfall, L 8-8 (6-8)
- Catalina Llorente, W 8-5
Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3, 4, 5, 6
- Manning/ Waterfall, L 2-8
- Rao/ Llorente, L 2-8
- Weech/Genender, L 3-8
Order of Finish: 1, 2 ,3