On the first true summer day, with hot sun and unwieldy flying caterpillars, the two-time defending Division 3 state champion Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls varsity tennis team defeated Ursuline Academy of Dedham, 5-0, to win the South Sectional championship on Saturday at the beautiful Medway High School sports complex.
Next, the Vineyarders (19-1), top seeds in the South, travel to Lexington for the state semifinals on Monday at 3:30 pm against North No. 1 Lynnfield (20-1). The teams know each other well. The Vineyarders have defeated the Pioneers in the state semis each of the past two seasons.
Despite the 5-0 score against Ursuline in the South final, Vineyard co-head coaches Nina Bramhall and Liz Roberts knew their team had been through a battle against the seventh-seeded Bears, who ended the season at 16-4.
“The singles courts, I think could have gone either way, certainly in the first set,” Coach Bramhall told The Times. “We played these guys last year and they were very good. I think we forgot how good they were.”
“I’m very excited for our team they really showed how strong they were under a lot of pressure today,” Coach Roberts said. “We played Ursuline last year (in the Division 3 South finals) and they were a tough competitor and this year they were even more tough. [Ursuline] is a really nice team and it’s exciting. It’s the kind of match you hope for in the finals.”
First doubles pair Lizzie Williamson and Victoria Scott were first off the courts, beating Julia Steponatis and Bella Lambros 6-0, 6-0. “It went very well, it was a great way to start the first and hopefully not the last one of our finals matches and I’m just excited to cheer the rest of the team on and see how this all plays out,” Victoria said. “The heat is astounding out there, it is just baking, but we just stayed right in it and I’m really proud of us and I can’t wait to cheer on the rest of our team,” Lizzie said.
Molly and Paige Pogue were next off the courts, winning handily, opposite seventh grader Mimi O’Connell and sophomore Amelia Donoghue, 6-0, 6-2. “I thought it went well,” Paige said. “I think this is one of the best matches Molly and I have played. I think our opponents played well. It was a good match overall.”
With the Vineyarders up 2-0, Kat Roberts clinched the South title with a hard-fought, 6-3, 6-3, victory over Mimi Dailey at first singles. Throughout the match, the players had to deal with cheering from a nearby soccer match and loud music blaring from the Snack Shack next to court one. “It was really good, this is my third time playing her, Kat said. “I won the other two times pretty handily. This time was the closest between us but it was good to have some competition.”
At third singles, Hannah Rabasca had her hands full with Alessia Cahoon, but won 6-4, 6-1.
“I was starting to get really nervous and because it was really hot, I was starting to get really down on myself,” Hannah said. “I was saying, ‘You’ve got to stay hydrated,’ but all my drinks were hot and I was just panicking and then all of a sudden when I got the first set I felt really confident going into the next one because I started fixing my mistakes.”
Although the Vineyarders had an insurmountable 4-0 lead, the emotional focus and the most competitive battle was at second singles, where Kelly Klaren, last off the court, beat Megan Etienne in dramatic fashion 4-6, 6-1, 10-3, serving up an ace on match point.
Kelly was overwhelmed by her victory and emotional about her hard-fought win. Teammates and coaches quickly ran to her and gathered for a group hug.
“You need a defibrillator, you alright?” Chris Scott, father of first doubles player Victoria Scott, jokingly asked Kelly’s father, Jonathan Klaren, after the win.
“It was a heck of a battle,” Jonathan said.
“We try to tell her, ‘Don’t play scared, don’t double fault, think, breathe,’” Kelly’s mom, Kim Klaren, told The Times during her daughter’s match.
Following the match, site official Patrick Sullivan said, addressing both teams, “There was some fantastic tennis out here today. The weather was definitely on our side. We appreciate the great sportsmanship you showed out here today and we wish Martha’s Vineyard the best success going forward.”