NEWBURYPORT — Although the result was not what the team was looking or hoping for, in the big picture, being a part of history is something all athletes enjoy to be a part of.
On Monday afternoon, the Wilmington High School Girls Tennis team was making its third straight state tournament appearance, something that had never been done before, according to records.
The No. 10 seed Wildcats made the trip up North to face old rival, Newburyport out of the Cape Ann League. The No. 7 seed Clippers proved to be a bit better on this day coming away with a 3-2 victory held at the Atkinson Commons.
The loss ended Wilmington's successful season with an 11-6 overall record, while finishing a three-year run of a combined of 34-19 with win totals of 11, 12 and 11.
"I'm proud of them," said head coach Matt Hackett. "They made it to the tournament for the third straight year and that had never happened before in program history. They just continued to make firsts."
None of the matches went to three sets, although at second singles, there was a tiebreaker as that match went on for quite some time. Wilmington won at first and third singles behind seniors Emily Hill and Lia Kourkoutas, who are two of the three seniors along with Jess D'Arco, who played in their final match.
"We are saying good-bye to three really, really awesome people," said Hackett. "I don't know how I'm going to replace them. The three singles players were the backbone of the team this year and (three members of the doubles teams are returning) and they have a bright future ahead of them. They are a great group of kids and I'm going to miss these three seniors, Emily, Lia and Jessica, dearly."
Hill defeated Ann de Kanter in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-2. The win improved Hill's career record to 37-29 over four years and while Hall of Famer Lisa Cutone has the distinction of being the all-time greatest player with a perfect record through four years, Hill certainly will be remembered for being one of the all-time best players in program history.
"I thought I did OK, but my first serve wasn't really working so good so I had to use my second serve the entire time, but I don't think that I really needed the first serve. All I needed was consistency and that's what won me the match," said Hill.
de Kanter was certainly pesky and made some nice shots throughout the match, but it seemed like whenever Hill needed to make a big shot, she delivered.
"I was playing my game and I was controlling my shots and controlling the balls," she said. "Whenever I needed to put the ball in the corner, I put it in the corner. If I needed it to be up the line, it was up the line. And when the (ball) went to the net, it was a fluke, and I would move on and say nice shot (to my opponent)."
Roney and her opponent Sophie Page slugged it out for what seemed like a handful of 12-round bouts. Page came away with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2 tiebreaker) victory over an extremely scrappy and athletic player in Roney.
"In Carolyn's second set, I was feeling really good about the way she was coming back and putting some doubt in her opponent's head and getting her back on her heels," said Hackett. "I don't think Carolyn felt her usual sense of confidence in the first set and into the early part of the second set. She started to get it in the middle to the late part of the second set.
"You could tell that she was hitting the ball a little tentative instead of hitting it with command like she can. She usually dominates points right off the serve. She was more reactionary and defensive today. She started to (take more control) towards the end in the (tiebreaker's) set."
Kourkoutas defeated Katherine O'Connor, 6-3 and 6-0 to finish her career at 39-17.
In doubles play, Jess and Lauren D'Arco were defeated by Anna Hickman and Molly Page by scores of 6-1 and 6-0, as were Johanna Robinson and Vidhi Shah by Elle Doucette and Liz McClure.
"Their two doubles teams earned it and their overall team deserved it," said Hackett. "We had some moments out there but you saw how their doubles teams won — they dominated at the net and usually with doubles, the first team to the net, generally comes away with the win. We had moments when we got to the net first, just not enough. I think (Newburyport's) doubles teams were stronger than I anticipated and certainly better than I had anticipated."
Jess D'Arco finished her career with a record of 21-15.
Newburyport advanced to the next round where Wilmington's season came to an end.
"It's always disappointing when you don't come away with a win. It's one of those ones where I said it's not that we should have won, but could have won. There were points that were available that we didn't get," said Hackett. "It was a good season. They took care of business when they had to and they played tough when they had to, especially against the teams that we lost to. There were no blowout (losses) this year. That's what I loved about this team is they were always fighting.
"They are so close as you can tell and that's more important than anything and more than the results. Just seeing them all get along, have fun together, support each other is so great to see. They were just such a fun group to coach."
On Wednesday morning, Coach Hackett announced that Emily Hill, Carolyn Roney and Lia Kourkoutas were all named to the Middlesex League All-Star team.