The girls’ tennis team made history this spring.
As the spring wore on, the Whitman-Hanson Regional High girls’ tennis team had come into its own.
It flipped a 2-3 loss against Plymouth North into a 3-2 victory nearly three weeks later and topped league foes Hanover (5-0), Quincy (3-2) and Pembroke (4-1) down the stretch.
“I think our girls picked up speed as the season went along and gained confidence,” said sixth-year head coach Sue Sookiasian.
They turned that extra speed and confidence into history. After meeting their first goal of making the tournament, it was then a belief they could win a match in it. With a 4-1 victory over Bishop Feehan in the preliminary round, they did – the program’s first tournament win on record.
Sookiasian said confidence was crucial.
“I knew they had that in them, it was just my job I feel to present that,” said the coach, whose team was knocked out by Wellesley in the next round, finishing the season at 11-11. “I knew they could do this, I didn’t know if they knew they could do this and that was my role and my assistant Sue Moss’ role to get them to that point. They have the talent, they just needed to believe in themselves.”
Sookiasian also said the constant mindset that tennis is a team sport not an individual sport played a large role in the Panthers’ run.
“One girl might have a great day and come through with a win and the next time we could play the same team and it might not be the same result she had prior but then another member might have lost the previous match and then won,” said the coach. “But they banded together and got the job done.”
W-H’s strength was its dominance in No. 2 and No. 3 singles. Junior captain Abby Pulling posted a 12-6 mark in the No. 2 spot, while sophomore Julia Benvie went 9-2 at No. 3 after being inserted into the position shortly into the season.
“They both had fantastic records,” Sookiasian said. “They were really our strong holds. I could rely on them.”
Going against the best the opposition had to offer, junior captain Lexi Connolly went 9-9 at No. 1 singles and was a league all-star.
“In the Patriot League, when you play towns like Hingham and Scituate and Duxbury, their kids play year-round,” Sookiasian said. “So, it’s tough.”
The doubles teams took a bit longer to round into form. After beginning the season in No. 2 doubles, sophomores Rylie Harlow and Kyla Faghan were bumped up a spot after beating Hingham. Junior captain Nandita Kumar, her sister, sophomore Divya Kumar, and junior captain Chloe Wilson shared time in No. 2 doubles.
“The doubles teams, along with the team, I think picked up speed as the year went along,” Sookiasian said. “Doubles is a little tougher because what you think to start the season might work out, it usually doesn’t – you have to juggle the teams around a bit and that’s what we did. It probably took us 6-8 matches in to really determine who was going to be the best fit with each other.”
Sookiasian said she already has her eyes set on next season. It’s tough to blame her because the Panthers are set to return everybody.
“I’ll have higher goals for next year,” she explained. “I would love to see them playing more tennis this offseason. I’m really encouraging them to obviously play outdoors from the summer into the fall, but definitely play around January. That makes a big difference in their game. If they play three months prior to the season, that will make us that much stronger.”