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Girls’ tennis opens by grounding Comets, 4-3

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School girls’ tennis team’s season got off to a promising — and chilly — start this past Saturday, when the Tigers edged visiting BFA-St. Albans, 4-3, in cold, windy weather that challenged both squads.
Tiger Coach Laura Rumbough was pleased her team defeated the Comets, who knocked off MUHS twice in 2014, despite the conditions — and without starting singles player Faith Isham.
“The first match went well. It was definitely a first match, and it was only our third time playing outdoors, and I’m proud of the girls because it was cold and it got really windy at the end,” Rumbough said. “We haven’t had a lot of practice time because of the weather and the indoor availability is pretty limited, but I think it went well. I’m hopeful, because we lost both times to BFA last year.”
The Tigers picked up their wins in No. 1 and No. 2 singles from senior Marvie Avery and freshman Bree Cotroneo, respectively, and then from both doubles teams, sophomores Claire Wulfman and Charlotte Keathley at No. 1 and junior Ember Benatti and sophomore Monroe Cromis at No. 2.
Avery, who lost only once in 2014, split two sets with Dianne Benedicto, 6-1, 4-6, and then won the 10-point tiebreaker, 10-3, by ripping several backhand winners. She said afterward she didn’t feel fully comfortable with her forehand, but she had no trouble unleashing crosscourt backhands to nail down the match.
Rumbough expects more wins from Avery as the spring progresses.
“We have high hopes for Marvie,” she said.
Cotroneo could even challenge for the No. 1 spot. Despite the tough conditions and an opponent, Jana Somers, whose inconsistent hitting made it hard for Cotroneo to get in groove, she had little trouble in a 6-1, 6-3 win.
“She looks good out there. She hits out at the ball, which is nice,” Rumbough said. “It’s nice to have a player smack it with confidence like she does, so I’m really excited about that.”
While Avery was on the court, so were Wulfman and Keathley, against a more experienced Comet team of Adut Morgan and Shannon Callahan. But the Tigers seemed to adapt better to the conditions, and their consistency led to a 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 victory.
But by the time the No. 2 doubles match was in the second set, the Comets had worked their way back into the match. At No. 3, Michelle McKay defeated Tiger senior Jesse Wulfman, 6-2, 6-1; at No. 4, Laurel Hebert defeated Tiger senior Hannah Stoll, 6-2, 6-3; and at No. 5, Mariah Stanley defeated MUHS sophomore Amelia Ingersoll, playing her first-ever competitive match, 6-0, 6-3.
As two of those matches were ongoing, Cotroneo was coasting, and it became clear the Tigers’ hopes rested on Benatti and Cromis, also playing their first competitive match, but against a similarly inexperienced BFA duo. The Tigers were more effective at the net and made fewer unforced errors in breezing through the first set, winning by 6-1.
But the Comets steadied up in the second set, which went to 4-4. But Benatti and Cromis hit several good groundstrokes in the final two games to win both, clinching the final game, set, match, and Tiger win when Benatti hit a strong forehand between the two Comets that neither could handle.
Rumbough said she didn’t tell Benatti and Cromis what was riding on their match.
“They didn’t even realize it, I don’t think,” Rumbough said.

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