NEWBURYPORT — After she finished up what turned out to be her final match in a Wildcat uniform, senior Lia Kourkoutas was asked to sum up the year in athletics where she was a league all-star in hockey and then reeled off 15 wins as the No. 3 singles player on the tennis team.
"I think that I made the most out of every sport that I played this year," she said. "I really wanted to strive and accomplish more goals in hockey and tennis, and win more games and power through since it was my last year. I just wanted to leave my mark and I feel that I did."
Certainly she left a mark, a mark that will be missed.
"We are saying good-bye to three really, really awesome people," said girls tennis head coach Matt Hackett, referring to Kourkoutas, Jessica D'Arco and Emily Hill. "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."
After electing not to return to the varsity soccer team and play a little bit more of off-season hockey, Kourkoutas hit the rinks this past winter and had a tremendous season. She finished with six goals and ten assists as a forward and was named to both the league and to the Lowell Sun All-Star teams. She finished her career with 40 points, including 14 tallies.
On top of playing hockey and tennis, she also volunteers at the Senior Center and Cops for Cancer, again leaving her mark as an outstanding student-athlete on and off the rinks/courts.
And while she proved to be a strong skater with some nifty moves during the winter days, Kourkoutas really emerged over the last three years on the tennis court. She helped the team finish with a combined record of 34-19 over the last three years including three trips to the state tournament with one victory. Between playing third singles for two years and second singles for the other, she finished with a career record of 39-17.
On Monday, the 39th victory was bittersweet. She played exceptionally well, beating her opponent Katherine O'Connell, 6-3 and 6-0, but unfortunately her Wildcat team fell short, losing 3-2 to Newburyport to end the team's season with a record of 11-6.
"Lia is consistent. She's steady and she uses a variety of shots and that's what she did methodically today," said Hackett. "She took advantage of lob situations, lob shots, and was able to use her angles really well. Her opponent moved around not the greatest, but she was still able to track down a lot of balls, even with Lia's variety of shots. I don't think her opponent knew what to expect half of the time and that's what Lia does so well."
The first set was tough with both girls going back-and-forth until Kourkoutas got into a groove and seemed to take the match over.
"It was really, really competitive in the first set," she said. "I was up by one, she came back and was up 2-1. Then it was 3-2 and I powered my way until the end and I ended up beating her 6-3. In the second set, I just fought through those tough points and beat her 6-0."
Kourkoutas was asked about her strategy to utilized a variety of different shots throughout the two sets.
"I felt it out on my player because she came to the net a few times so I figured if I lobbed it over, she wouldn't get it, and that's what I did and it won me some points," she answered. "Then I noticed that she was sitting deeper, so then I did drop shots to the net."
That two-set victory gave her the 15th win of the season and 39th in her career — not bad for a hockey player.
"Honestly (I didn't think I would be 15-2 this year), but I wanted to have a better record than I did last year and pretty sure I had ten or eleven wins," said Kourkoutas, who will now attend UMass-Lowell and major in nursing. "I accomplished my goal and that's exciting."