The only thing that changed about Sam White from her junior to senior years of tennis at Monument Mountain was the level at which she played.
"It's not like she came up with any new weapons," Spartans coach Jeff Caligari said. "She refined what she had."
Those refinements led her to an 18-3 season and the All-Eagle girls tennis MVP award -- and helped take Monument Mountain to its second consecutive Western Mass. Division III championship.
White was 14-0 in Berkshire County in the regular season, not losing to a local opponent until Lee's Caitlyn Briggs bested her in the sectional championship match, which Monument Mountain still won.
Her talent on the court in 2014 helped to make up for what she considered to be an inconsistent 2013.
"My groundstrokes weren't really up to par," she said. "They weren't as consistent as I wanted. I really worked on trying not to over-hit, and worked on my stroke and staying low."
White saw her refinements -- mainly in her net game and her service -- pay off around the halfway point of the season. She hadn't been defeated yet, and neither had the Spartans.
White wouldn't lose her first match until the Western Mass. individual tournament, and the Spartans didn't fall until a tough 3-2 decision to Notre Dame Academy in the D-III state semifinal round.
"After I made it through the halfway point, and we had played all the teams [in Berkshire County], I started to realize I was working the ball more and making the other player make mistakes," White said.
Despite all the wins, White was still tested throughout the season. Both she and Caligari point to a match win over fellow All-Eagle honoree Tara Shastri of Mount Greylock. Shastri handed White her first set loss in a match this season, beating the Spartan 7-5 in the second set of a mid-May match.
White responded with a 6-0 third-set win.
"To me, that showed a lot," Caligari said. "Tara had improved dramatically over the season. Sam came out in the third set and just obliterated her."
As a captain and No. 1 singles player, White said there was always some kind of pressure to perform. Caligari agreed, saying simply: "She's playing the best girls on the other teams every match."
White, though, never felt she had to pick anyone up. That's backed up by the Spartans' stellar team record, and the fact that White's joined on the All-Eagle team by No. 2 singles player Cara Freadman, and two Monument Mountain doubles teams.
Caligari saw White's confidence almost every time she stepped on the court, especially as the straight-set wins became regular occurrences.
"She was a senior. She was winning everything in straight sets," he said. "Whenever there was a big point, [White and Freadman] always seemed to win the big point."
White heads to Colby-Sawyer in the fall, with plans to join both the nursing program and the tennis team. She'll be the second member of the family to take to the court for the Chargers, as sister Hannah played four years there and graduated in 2011.
"They have a lot of incoming freshmen that seem really good," White said. "[Hannah] seemed like she had an amazing time. I just wanted to follow that."
All-Eagle Girls Tennis—Singles
Sam White: Senior, Monument Mountain
White lost just one match to a Berkshire County opponent -- and that didn't happen until the Western Mass. Division III championship match. In the regular season, White was 14-0 in the county, and she finished 18-3 overall at No. 1 singles for the sectional champion Spartans.
The coach's take: This year, Sam seemed to refocus and I noticed it right from the first practice. She was just determined to have a good senior year. -- Jeff Caligari, Monument coach
Caitlyn Briggs: Senior, Lee
Briggs, a Western Mass. individual quarterfinalist, went 16-3, winning all her No. 1 singles matches in the Western Mass. Division III tournament. That includes a season-defining win over Monument Mountain's Sam White in the sectional championship match.
The coach's take: Her season went wonderfully. Hard work, practice -- that's what worked. Any kid that puts in the time she did is going to have results. -- Jeff Forget, Lee coach
Tara Shastri: Sophomore, Mount Greylock
Shastri was the Mounties' No. 1 singles player for much of the season, and compiled a 13-5 record between 1 and 2. She was one of three Berkshire County players to earn a top-eight seed for the Western Mass. individual tournament.
The coach's take: At the beginning of the year, Melina was able to beat her when we first got out in the cold weather. Tara had to find her game. Once she found her game, she was the clear-cut No. 1, with some of the best groundstrokes in the league. -- John Jacobbe, Greylock coach
Cara Freadman: Sophomore, Monument Mountain
Freadman, like her teammate White, was unbeatable in Berkshire County in the regular season. At No. 2 singles, Freadman went 11-0 in the Berkshires, and 16-2 overall. Her losses came in the Western Mass. individual tournament and the Division III state semifinals. Perhaps her most impressive feat was that, in all 16 victories, she was only pushed to a third set once.
The coach's take: Cara is very tough mentally. She's not going to lose a match out there. She's going to will her way to a victory, no matter what. She's very consistent; she plays the big points well. -- Caligari
Melina Sfakianaki: Senior, Mount Greylock
Sfakianaki, as the Mounties' No. 2 player, was 13-4. All four losses came to fellow All-Eagle selections, and Greylock coach John Jacobbe said she was still very competitive in her loss to All-Eagle MVP White. Sfakianaki's strong play at No. 2 -- though she also played at No. 1 at one point in the season -- helped the Mounties reach the Western Mass. Division III semifinals.
The coach's take: She's a competitor. She had a little bit of everything in her game. She could come to the net. When she played with positive emotion, she was a tough match. She proved that all the way into Western Mass. -- Jacobbe
All-Eagle Girls Tennis—Doubles
Molly Amstead and Emily Martin: Junior/Senior, Monument Mountain
Amstead and Martin went 9-2 overall at No. 1 doubles, and 7-0 in Berkshire County for the Western Mass. Division III champion Spartans. Both losses came in the postseason. As a team, the pair was unlikely to make many unforced errors.
The coach's take: Molly and Emily are both very athletic. They both cover a lot of the court. They knew where the other was. They came together really well. I would say both are probably stronger from the back of the court. I guess the best way to describe them is they had similar games, but they knew what each other was doing because they played a lot out there. -- Caligari
Carly Shafiroff and Hailey Higgins: Sophomore/Freshman, Monument Mountain
These two weren't paired until later in the regular season by coach Jeff Caligari. When they came together, though, Shafiroff and Higgins couldn't be beaten. They were 9-0 overall, 5-0 in Berkshire County, and dropped just one set as a team. Shafiroff handled the service and groundstrokes, while Higgins was the team's strength at the net.
The coach's take: Once I settled on Carly and Hailey, they went undefeated from that point on. Carly improved dramatically. She's the most improved player on the team, no question about it. Hailey worked very hard at practices, and she was the kind of player [that] I didn't realize what I had for three to four weeks, until I found she was a consistent doubles player. -- Caligari
To reach Matthew Sprague: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6254. On Twitter: @BE_MSprague.