Monument Mountain repeats as W. Mass. D-III girls tennis champ
LENOX -- Monument Mountain girls tennis coach Jeff Caligari would almost rather have had his Spartans enter the Western Mass. Division III tennis championship match as the underdog Friday.
With the Spartans having beaten their opponent, Lee, three times already this season, that wasn't going to happen. The Wildcats had the underdog's role, having beaten two higher seeds to reach the final.
"When you're overwhelming favorites like we were today -- and I really felt we were; we'd beaten them three times -- that puts a lot of pressure on you," Caligari said.
The Spartans handled that pressure well enough to repeat as sectional champions. Monument won 4-1 at the Lenox Community Center, clinching the fifth consecutive Western Mass. D-III title for a Berkshire County team.
All four victories for the unbeaten Spartans (17-0) came in straight sets. Cara Freadman beat Emma Forget 6-3, 6-0 at No. 2 singles, and Jen Evans, healthy again after playing through a head cold in the semifinals against Mount Greylock, beat Julie LePrevost 6-4, 6-1.
Monument's first doubles team of Molly Amstead and Emily Martin beat Ashley Kelly and Kayla Withers 6-3, 6-1, and the Spartans clinched the championship when Carly Shafiroff and Hailey Higgins beat Madison DiSantis and Sarah Winston 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.
"They've shown us all year long that they're a great group of girls who come up with the big shots when they have to," Caligari said of his team.
The Spartans will meet Worcester Notre Dame Academy (14-7), the Central Mass. champion, in a 3:30 p.m. Monday state semifinal at Western New England University in Springfield.
"I think this was our goal all year," Evans said of the championship. "Making it to states last year was a bit of a surprise; this time, it was an expectation for us."
Freadman, who has only lost one match all season, is one of four Spartans with state tennis experience. She was Evans' doubles partner last season.
"I made a lot more errors in the first set, and I hit more winners [in the second]," Freadman said of her performance Friday.
Caligari expected Freadman to win, and he was pretty sure No. 2 doubles would prevail. The other matches, to him, looked tight.
"They [Lee] beat the No. 1 seed this year, so you knew they were on a roll, they were playing well and were gonna be tough," he said.
In fact, Lee's silver lining came at No. 1 singles. Caitlyn Briggs forced a third-set super tiebreaker and held off Monument's Sam White 6-7 (9-7), 6-4 (10-7) for the Wildcats' lone point.
It's the second singles loss White has suffered all season, with her first coming in the Western Mass. individual tournament. Briggs, however, is the only Berkshire County player to beat White this season.
"It feels really good, being my last match ever in high school," Briggs, a senior, said. "I just was telling myself [in the tiebreaker], ‘I have to do it. I have to get it overwith.' "
Lee may have surprised the rest of Western Mass. with its run to the final as a No. 8 seed, but coach Jeff Forget -- and many in Berkshire County tennis circles -- expected late-season excellence.
"The last several weeks of the season, they started playing to their potential. It's a great chemistry between these girls," Forget said.
"It's a little bittersweet, especially for the seniors, Caitlyn being one of the three. But I'm just very proud of them. ... I think they've shown what they're made of."
Singles: 1 -- Caitlyn Briggs (L) def. Sam White 6-7 (9-7), 6-4 (10-7); 2 -- Cara Freadman (MM) def. Emma Forget 6-3, 6-0; 3 -- Jen Evans (MM) def. Julie LePrevost 6-4, 6-1. Doubles: 1 -- Molly Amstead/Emily Martin (MM) def. Ashley Kelly/Kayla Withers 6-3, 6-1; 2 -- Carly Shafiroff/Hailey Higgins (MM) def. Madison DiSantis/Sarah Winston 6-4, 6-4.
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