Last season, the Woodland Girls Tennis Team struggled to come together. After ending the season with eight wins and nine losses, the girls were determined to make this season a winning one. And just about a little halfway through the 2013 season, the Hawks have maintained a perfect record.
This season the Hawks are using their experience to their advantage. Last year’s lineup consisted of three juniors and six sophomores– making them one of the youngest teams in the NVL. But since the Hawks did not graduate seniors like the rest of the NVL, they easily had an advantage over the rest.
“Last year a big part of the season was working on team chemistry, team commodity, and the team adjusting to a new coach and me adjusting to new players,” said Jess DeGennaro, Woodland Girls Tennis Coach, “I think last year was more of a learning year for everyone where I think this year it’s more about setting goals and winning–having the desire to win.”
The season started off strong for the girls. Within the first three weeks, the girls defeated St.Paul, who beat the Hawks four times last season. They took down the prior NVL Champs, Watertown, with a final score of 5-2 and then went on to crush Seymour with a score of 6-1.
The Hawks have been able to defeat teams by such large gaps because they are strong in both their singles and doubles– which is something they have not seen in many other teams. If one team has stronger singles than the Hawks, the Hawks can rely on their doubles teams to get the wins that they need to clinch a match. For the singles lineup, the girls have junior Julia Lawton at number one singles, junior Rachel Mariano at number two, junior Lauren Tompkins at three, and junior Salma Shitia at four. The silver medalist NVL competitors, senior tri-captain Liz Martin and junior Hope Gavigan, start at number one doubles for the Hawks. Senior tri-captain Emily Rioux and junior Ayah Galal start at number two doubles. And senior tri-captain Jesse Erickson and sophomore Erica Boccuzzi start at three doubles for the Hawks.
“Woodland Girls Tennis team has both strong singles and doubles teams,” said number two doubles teammate Ayah Galal,”a lot of teams, like Holy Cross, have strong singles but we have both.”
So far this season, the Holy Cross Crusaders have been the most challenging opponents. It was the match of the unbeaten until the Hawks swiped their perfect record in their match on April 24, 2013. Although they beat them 5-2, the match was closer than it looked. Individual matches were close, but the Hawks were able to walk away with close matches. Holy Cross was an obstacle and even though the Hawks are undefeated, they are not perfect. DeGennaro added that there are still things they need to work on.
“Now that we are halfway through this season, a crucial point, I think the pressure of being undefeated is affecting our game. Our weaknesses are coming out,” said DeGennaro, “Our players are worried about losing, about the record, and it’s affecting their play. And because tennis is a mental sport, it has a big impact on how we play.”
Maintaining the undefeated record can be pressuring, but DeGennaro is looking to help her team past the challenge and is looking to improve to for the next biggest feat: the NVL tournament.
The team will have about two weeks to prepare themselves for the tournament and if they want to win, they will have to work even harder.
“We can’t stay status quo, we can’t be satisfied with the way we’re staying, we need to constantly be improving if we want a chance at the NVL title because I know other teams and other plays have improved,” stated DeGennaro, “We can’t play how we’re playing now and expect to win the title and go undefeated.”
With nine wins and zero losses, the team has qualified for the state tournament. In the next couple of weeks, the Hawks are looking to clinch the Copper Division Title along with the NVL title. But this week, the team will be preparing themselves to play the teams in their toughest teams in their division again including St. Paul, Watertown, and Seymour. NVL’s will take place on May, 16, 2013 and the finals will take place on May, 18, 2013. The girls are hoping to be in the tournament and take the NVL title the same way they did three years ago. If they continue to improve, nothing should stand in their way.