The MIAA Division 2 South Sectional final was all about heart and guts, and mind over pressure, for the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) girls tennis team. The third-seeded Vineyarders faced their toughest test of the season, and won an epic three-hour contest, edging the No. 4 Dover-Sherborn Raiders, 3-2, Wednesday afternoon at Plymouth South High School.
With the best-of-five match series tied at 2-2, a berth in the state finals came down to a three-set battle at first doubles between Vineyarders Molly Pogue and Chesca Potter and Dover-Sherborn’s Piper Evans and Katherine Whittle.
Pogue/Potter took the first set, 7-5, but Evans/Whittle evened the match with a 6-4 win in the second. Normally, the issue would’ve been settled with a 10-point third-set tiebreaker, but not in the decisive fifth match, not with what was at stake. Instead, the teams played a full third set.
Evans/Whittle jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but Pogue/Potter fought back to win three consecutive games. Then the Raiders retook the lead at 4-3. The Vineyarders grabbed it back at 5-4, the Raiders tied it, and Pogue/Potter took the last two games to win it for MV, 7-5.
“It was a back-and-forth match really from the first game,” Vineyard Coach Chris Scott said. “They were trading games all the way through. It came down to executing some great shots, not giving away points, serving under pressure, and being consistent. As we’ve been saying all season: being controlled and aggressive.”
The South final started off well for the team in purple. Hannah Rabasca put the Vineyarders ahead with a clinical 6-0, 6-1, win at third singles over Lauren Kiel. Victoria Scott made it 2-0 for MV after defeating Connaught Burke 6-2, 6-2, at second singles.
Undaunted, the Raiders fought back to tie the final at 2-2. First, Adelaide Atwood and Mayson Blondek topped Alex Rego and Tessa Hammond 6-1, 6-3, at second doubles, then Amelia Poor defeated Vineyard No. 1 singles Kelly Klaren 6-4, 6-4, to set up the riveting finish in first doubles.
“The match really came down to mental toughness,” Coach Scott said. “When you’re playing a third set in front of all the supporters and parents, it comes down to executing your shots under pressure. I really have to give credit to Molly Pogue and Chesca Potter. They felt the pressure, but they overcame it. That’s what a successful tournament tennis player has to be able to do.” Coach Scott also had generous praise for Dover-Sherborn: “I have to give them all the credit. They were well-coached and very skillful. [Amelia Poor] is, in my opinion, the best singles player in the state.” Of first doubles Evans and Whittle, he said, “My heart went out to our opponents. I thought they played great.”
With this latest hurdle cleared, the Vineyarders (20-0) will play for a fifth consecutive state title in a rematch with North No. 1 Winchester High School (20-1) in the state Division 2 championship on Tuesday, June 18, at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury. The start time is yet to be determined.
“In a way, we’re different teams,” Coach Scott said of the state finalists. “Both teams have graduated players. We’re the same teams, but with different rosters.”