TEWKSBURY – This past week, the Tewksbury Memorial High School girls' tennis team knocked off both the Academy of Notre Dame and Billerica to conclude the regular season with a 12-4 record, including the MVC Division 2 Championship title which the team captured back on May 21st against Billerica.
The league title is the second under the tenure of head coach Mary MacDonald, while the 12 victories in a season ties the win total back in 2012, which is believed to be the highest mark in a season in program history.
On Thursday, the MIAA will release its state tournament pairings and Tewksbury should be one of the top four or five seeds in Division 2 North, which should get the team its first ever playoff home match.
If the Redmen do host a first round match and come away with a win, it would be history in three phases — a home playoff game, a playoff victory and most wins in a season.
“Different players have stepped up with a big win when we needed it,” said MacDonald. “Even though tennis can be a solitary sport, these girls have a strong sense of team, supporting each other and working hard in every match.
“I believe this team is going to finish the season with the best record in program history, and hopefully we will have the opportunity to play a home match in the post season, also a program first."
This will be the fifth time under MacDonald’s tenure that the team has qualified for the state tournament. In 2009, the team qualified with a 6-10 record but were told the team would compete in Division 1 North because it had a boy on the team and Tewksbury elected not to compete.
In 2010, Tewksbury finished 4-10 in the regular season and qualified, losing to Triton, 3-2. In 2012, the Redmen won the MVC Division 2 title, advanced to the state tournament and were defeated by Pentucket Regional, 3-2 and finished 12-8.
Then in 2014, Tewksbury was defeated by Wayland, 5-0, ending the season with a 10-7 record.
It would appear that Winchester would be the team to once again beat in Division 2 North.
But regardless of how the Redmen fare in the upcoming tournament, MacDonald knows that each and every one of her players has drastically improved from the start of the season until now.
“At the start of this season, I was impressed with the level of tennis I saw at tryouts,” she said. “Several of the returning players had played tennis during the off-season and it was very clear that we had a stronger team than last year. We also didn't graduate any starters, and that is a rare luxury. So as we entered the season I was hopeful that we could find a few more wins than last year.”
Despite many cancellations to start the season which spread out the team's first few matches, Tewksbury was 3-2 before going on a six-match win streak.
“The focus at practice has been great all season, and the girls have all played better as the season progressed,” said MacDonald. “Our first singles player, Elizabeth Ezekiel, missed three matches early in the season and the other girls stepped up and we went 2-1.
“In three of the four losses the girls competed very well and had their chances to win those matches, North Andover, Chelmsford, and Central were all 3-2 losses, and we had a chance to win.”
In the team's two matches this past week, Tewksbury knocked off Academy of Notre Dame 4-1. Ezekiel defeated Sarah Burns, 6-2 and 6-2 at first singles. At second singles, Sydney Crowley was defeated by Annika Hanson, 6-0 and 6-2. At third singles, Tewksbury's Alexia Chesbrough topped Hannah McCleod, 6-4 and 6-0.
In doubles play, the team of Jaime Burns and Lizzy Taggert defeated Bridget Ruam and Elena Murgula, 6-1 and 6-3 and then Alexis Hillis and Emma White defeated Kaitlin Lin and Lucie Liao, 3-6, 6-0 and 6-2.
In the win over Lawrence, Ezekiel, Crowley and Chesbrough all won their singles matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores, as did White and Hillis, while, Burns and Rosalyn Impink won 6-0 and 6-1.