SHREWSBURY -- Thrust onto the state championship stage, the Monument Mountain girls tennis team discovered just how tough the best in Massachusetts can be.
"We're just really excited to be here," said Spartan junior Emily Martin. "We've never been to states before. I learned that there's always going to be someone better than you are as you progress."
Manchester-Essex beat a Berkshire County team for the second time in three years in the Division III state final, sweeping past Monument Mountain 5-0 at Saint John's in Shrewsbury on Saturday. Martin, playing second doubles with Molly Amstead, was dispatched 6-2, 6-2 by Molly Carlson and Maura McCormick. That clinched the title after the Spartans' previously unbeaten first doubles team of Cara Freadman and Jen Evans left the court with a 6-0, 6-2 loss. The Hornets got the first win of the day at third singles when Kendall McCormick beat Shea Caligari, 6-1, 6-1.
"That was the worst tennis that I've played all year," Evans said. "I think it definitely was the pressure of it. They hit really hard shots and I definitely struggled returning their harder shots."
Monument (14-3) struggled from the outset. Both doubles teams found themselves in trouble, with balls more likely to carom off racquets or into the net than down the line as winners.
For Freadman and Martin, their only loss of the season unfortunately came at the worst time.
"They were really good at the net," Cara Freadman said. "We didn't come out playing good initially. We just weren't playing [like] ourselves."
Two years after beating Lenox 4-1 in this same match, Manchester-Essex (22-0) was loose. First-year coach Phil Logsdon said his team had a laid-back bus ride to Shrewsbury.
On the bus ride down here [first doubles player Chanel Bullock] was doing mock interviews with everyone on the team and just had us in stitches," he said. "We were rolling in the aisles all the way down here. We were pretty loose. I think that really helps."
Monument coach Jeff Caligari said his team, for the first team all year, looked nervous. That showed in the way the Hornets jumped all over the Spartans. Caligari called Manchester-Essex a "machine." Monument couldn't come to close to matching the new state champs, failing to win more than three games in any one set.
As he ran down the list of his team's accomplishments -- including a Western Massachusetts title and state semifinal victory -- Caligari had another word to describe what his team accomplished in reaching Shrewsbury: Incredible.
"I think it's been a great year," Caligari said. "This has shown them what kind of level they've got to aspire to get to, show them that they've got to work that much harder if they want to get back here and possibly win the states."
Manchester-Essex 5, Monument Mountain 0
Singles -- 1. Brittany Collens (ME) def. Sam White, 6-3, 6-1; 2. Michelle Fuca (ME) def. Courtney Freadman, 6-0, 6-2; 3. Kendall McCormick (ME) def. Shea Caligari, 6-1, 6-1.
Doubles -- 1. Chanel Bullock/Rachel Daley (ME) def. Cara Freadman/Jen Evans, 6-0, 6-2; 2. Molly Carlson/Maura McCormick (ME) def. Emily Martin/Molly Amstead, 6-2, 6-2.