By Bob York
This was a rebuilding year for the Deerfield Academy girls tennis program and after losing seven players to graduation last spring, you really couldn’t blame coach David Dickinson for admitting “I really didn’t know what to expect from this year’s team.”
The veteran Big Green mentor knew he had Ritchey Howe ’12, his top seeded singles player who went 10-3 last year, returning to the fold. He also knew, however, that single seeds 2 through 4—Lilly Havens (11-2), Libby Burrus (9-1) and Bea Crawford (9-2), who combined for a 29-5 record last spring—were now alums.
And Dickinson also knew that if he were to fill the void of “The Departed,” the players who would do so would be a bit on the inexperienced side. Because when the Deerfield coach summoned his charges to their first practice this spring, he had one senior, three juniors, five sophomores, and one freshman standing before him.
“Overall, I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome,” said Dickinson of his Big Green squad that produced a 10-2 regular-season record before finishing fifth out of a 12-team field at the deVilla Franca Tournament at Kent School.
“It was the first time we’d finished fifth in that tournament since 2000,” said Dickinson, whose teams have registered a pair of tourney titles, finished second on six occasions, and placed third three times over the years. “We sent one junior (Howe) and three sophomores (Annika Trapness, Cleo Siderides and Zoe L’Esperance) to the tourney,” added Dickinson. “They all did well, but ran into some pretty stiff competition along the way.”
Howe, who went 7-4 on the season and was seeded fourth in the tourney, made it to the semifinals, where she ran into a buzz saw in Dayna Lord, the top seed and eventual winner in the bracket “and who’s ranked as the 100th best 18-year-old in the country,” said Dickinson.
“Ritchey’s been an outstanding player for us,” said Dickinson of Howe, who was the recipient of the Deerfield Girls’ Tennis Coaches’ Award for the second straight year and who, along with Mary Cherna ’12, will serve as a co-captain next year. Howe has posted a 17-7 record as the Big Green’s top seed over the past two years. “Not only is she an outstanding tennis player from the physical standpoint, but from the mental aspect as well. She not only plays smart tennis, but she’s mentally tough and fights to the end, which is what you have to learn to do in this sport … especially when you’re a number-one seed.”
Trapness, Deerfield’s second seed in singles play and this year’s winner of the Sara Schewe Award, went 7-4 during the regular season and captured the tourney’s consolation finals of the No. 2 bracket. The top-seeded doubles team of Siderides and L’Esperance, who went 4-0 when packaged together, lost in the tourney quarterfinals.
With the loss of third-seeded Cherna this season due to a concussion, Alyssa Moreau ’14 moved into the third slot, where she went 2-0, while Ashley So ’13 took over the fourth slot and finished at 4-0.
Estelle Kim, the lone senior on the roster, paired up with Porter Simmons ’12 to form the second seed in doubles, while Emily Rand ’14 and Lindsay Elmlinger ’13 went 8-2 as the third seeds.
“I’d have to say the future looks pretty bright,” said Dickinson. “We have a great feeder program here at Deerfield, as six of our varsity players are graduates of the JV program. And that’s a wonderful sign that the entire program is working well.
“And as far as the kids are concerned, there shouldn’t be many openings next year,” added Dickinson. “They’re all well-rounded athletes and all come to tennis having experience at playing other sports and that’s the way we like it around here.”
Bob York is a Greenfield Recorder wire editor. His email address is email@example.com.