LUDLOW -- Rain moved the MIAA Girls State semifinal indoors, and in a close match, the Monument Mountain girls tennis team could not earn a return trip to the state final, losing 3-2 to Notre Dame Academy of Worcester on Monday.
The unbeaten Spartan girls found themselves in an unfamiliar situation. After a dominant regular season and convincing win in the Western Mass. title match, the team needed its No. 1 doubles team of Molly Amestead and Emily Martin to win in order to advance to the state finals. The duo battled, winning the second set after dropping the first in a tiebreak. However, they could not complete the comeback losing 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-3.
"I knew Jenn [Evans] won at number three, I knew our number two doubles won, and I figured it would come down to Cara [Freadman]," Monument coach Jeff Caligari said. "When [Freadman] didn’t win and our No. 1 doubles won the second set, I was pretty optimistic. But you’ve got to give [Notre Dame’s] No. 1 doubles team a lot of credit."
Caligari said Amestead and Martin played their best match of the year, but Notre Dame’s duo of Caroline Kelly and Hannah Mullaney’s ability to defend the lob made them tough to beat.
At No. 2 singles, Freadman also needed three sets to be defeated by Julia Witt. After dropping the first set 6-0, Freadman regrouped to win the second set, but Witt’s ability to slice the ball was too much for Freadman, winning 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.
"She sliced it a lot, which I’m not used to," Freadman said. "She hit it close to the net and I think I like more pace. ... I started hitting it deeper onto the court so she didn’t slice it as much. But I let that down a little in the third set."
Caligari said he was impressed with the way Witt moved around the court.
"Cara hit a lot of shots to [Witt] that most girls do not hit back," he said.
After moving from the Volvo Tennis courts at Western New England University, to the indoor courts of the Ludlow Tennis Club, both teams needed some time to warm up again.
Coming off just her second loss of the season, Monument’s No. 1 singles player Sam White had her hands full again. White’s opponent, Tori Oates, had a big, but somewhat inconsistent serve. Ultimately, Oates settled down and used the indoor surface to her advantage, winning 6-4, 6-2.
"Missing your first serve is probably the biggest struggle for a tennis player," Oates said. "Once you go inside, the conditions are really different. Trying to get my first serve down was a struggle, but once that settled down, everything just kind of clicked."
One of Monument’s wins came at No. 3 singles, as Jenn Evans defeated Mary Sullivan 6-0, 6-3. The other win came at No. 2 doubles, as Carly Shafiroff and Hailey Higgins defeated Julia Crowley and Carolyn Brady 6-3, 6-4.
Notre Dame coach Peter Marr said the Spartans were tough throughout their entire lineup.
"We held and we broke them at the end," he said. "It was tough all they way through."
For the Spartans and coach Caligari, a return to the state final was not in the cards. However, an undefeated regular season and a second straight Western Mass. title are two accomplishments they have in their back pockets.
"[Western Mass.] was without a doubt what we were focused on this year," he said. "We were thinking if we get to states again, it’s just icing on the cake. We had a great year, 17-0. ... Losing in states to a real good team, we have nothing to be ashamed of."
To reach Akeem Glaspie:
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