Martha's Vineyard girls tennis team wins state MIAA Division 3 title

The Boston Globe named first year coach Nina Bramhall Division 3 girls tennis coach of the year.

The girls tennis team, led by Samantha Potter and the trophy, walked off the ferry to a huge ovation. — Photo by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls’ varsity tennis team, unbeaten this season, beat Hopedale Junior-Senior High School Friday afternoon 4-1 to win the Division 3 girls’ tennis state championship at the beautiful Saint John’s High School courts in Shrewsbury and make school history.

The Vineyard finished the season at 22-0, including playoff action. Their accomplishment did not go unnoticed. A large crowd was waiting to greet the girls when they walked off the ferry Friday night amid the sound of sirens and horns.

“It’s over the top, are you kidding?” head coach Nina Bramhall told The Times after the big win. “It’s just thrilling, totally thrilling. How can you not be proud of everybody?  I’m just thrilled for them.”

“Does that mean you want a pay raise?” joked Vineyard Youth Tennis director Scott Smith who stood with coach Bramhall after the MIAA tournament director announced that she had been selected division three girls’ tennis coach of the year.

The Vineyard girls were jubilant to hear that Ms. Bramhall, who completes her first year coaching the team, was honored by the Boston Globe.

Mr. Smith traveled the distance Friday to cheer on the girls who have been part of his program for many years.

“These are girls that we have taught the past seven-eight years,” Mr. Smith said.  “The other team was overmatched today, the Lynnfield match was stronger – they were state champions the last two years.  It’s really exciting. I’m proud of them.”

“It’s gone great,” longtime MIAA tournament director Bill Gibbons told The Times.

“I’d like to congratulate both teams on a great final,” Mr. Gibbons said at the trophy presentations. “It was great tennis, but more importantly, great sportsmanship. This is the way high school sports should be. You play hard, you play to win, but you play with class. You represent yourself, you represent your parents, and you represent your school. You always play with class. I congratulate both teams.”

Strong start

The Vineyarders came out of the gate solid, with four of five courts winning the first set.

“It’s easier than we thought,” Robert Potter, the proud dad of twins Samantha and Charlotte, said.  “But we can’t take anything for granted.”

Samantha Potter won her first set at first singles 6-1, and Kat Roberts and Lizzie Williamson at second and third singles, respectively, dominated and both won their first sets 6-0.

Charlotte Potter and Josie Iadiccio at first doubles won their first set in tighter competition 6-3, and Madison McBride and Lia Potter at second doubles lost their first set 4-6.

In the second set both Kat and Lizzie were up 3-0 and then Lizzie lost two games in a row. “She’s rattled,” Lizzie’s mom Anne Williamson told The Times.  “She needs to clear her head.”

At one point in the game Lizzie came near the fans to retrieve a ball and mumbled to herself, “horrible footwork.”  A fan quickly piped up, “We don’t remember the footwork we remember the score!”

Lizzie answered the call and solidly returned a serve with a sharp angled ball that her opponent could not catch.  Lizzie went on to win the match 6-0, 6-2.

“It was good,” Lizzie told The Times post-match. “In the beginning my serve was on, but in those two games I lost it wasn’t. I got tired of playing her game and bored of getting into points and I was like, ‘I’m going to get it done.’”

Kat Roberts, whose clutch victory Wednesday propelled the team to the championship round, maintained her dominance in the finals despite the pressure and won 6-0, 6-0.

“It was definitely less stressful than my other matches,” Kat said. “I was more nervous because we had never been here before and it was great to win my match and think we’d pull it out.”

Samantha Potter also won solidly 6-1, 6-0.  “It was a good match,” Samantha told The Times.  “She was very consistent but did not have a lot of pace so I sort of had to create my own. She put up a good fight.”

Both doubles courts were more competitive matches. Charlotte Potter and Josie Iadiccio pulled out the win 6-3, 6-1.

“I think Josie and I just brought out the best in each other,” said Charlotte after her win.  “We supported each other and broke it down and now we’re state champions so that’s pretty cool.”

“She was feeling like she really wanted to win it,” Josie’s mom Terry Lowe told The Times about her daughter’s state of mind on Friday morning.  “They’ve been playing together such a long time, they have had lots of opportunities to practice and to work as a team and communicate on the court and it seems to be working for them.”

Second doubles team Madison McBride and Lia Potter played tough and split sets, but lost 4-6, 6-2, 8-10.  This was only the second time these ladies played together in competition.

Due to time restrictions Madison and Lia had to play their third set as a “super-tiebreaker.”  When a team already has three points, as the Vineyard did, and has technically already won the competition, if a team still on court goes to a

third set a super-tiebreaker is played.

A super-tiebreaker is whoever gets to ten first, and wins by two, and it represents a whole set.  A regular tie-breaker is the first to seven.  If the competition score had been 2-2, then the second doubles match would have played a regular third set. In this case the boys’ competition was slated for the courts so the MIAA director needed to clear the field.

“A great way to go out,” Robert Potter said about his two MVRHS graduates Samantha and Charlotte.

“It’s the icing on the cake,” said Josie’s mom Terry Lowe. This fall Samantha is headed to The Air Force Academy, Charlotte is on her way to Stonehill College, and Josie heads south to New York University.

Experience gap

The Vineyard girls found themselves playing skilled but younger opponents, including an eighth grader who was matched against Samantha Potter at first singles.

Hopedale is a small school that combines junior and senior high school and plays girls younger than ninth grade. There are no player eligibility restrictions – girls can play all six years if they choose.  Hopedale does not have a junior varsity squad because there are not enough players.

Hopedale’s second and third singles players Megan McLellen and Rachel Szemeth are both freshmen.  Hopedale’s first doubles team Maddie Sparks and Colleen Kencade are both upperclassmen, senior and junior respectively, and at second doubles Jenny Holland is a freshman and Abby O’Neal is an eighth grader.