Sports

Solons edge Tiger girls in D-II tennis final

Middlebury Union High School's Julia Bartlett fires a backhand return on her way to beating Montpelier’s Kenzie Golonka on Wednesday, but the Tigers fell to the visitors in the Division I final. Independent photo/Steve James

MIDDLEBURY — The top-seeded Middlebury Union High School girls’ tennis team entered Wednesday’s home final against No. 3 Montpelier dreaming of an undefeated season and the program’s first championship in 25 years.

The Tigers settled for an outstanding 12-1 record after a 4-3 loss in which the 12-2 Solons avenged their 4-3 midseason loss to the Tigers. Montpelier’s only other setback this spring came to undefeated D-I top seed Stowe.

The Tigers won three of the top four matches on the singles ladder, thanks to sophomore No. 1 Scarlett Carrara, junior No. 2 Julia Bartlett and senior No. 4 Elizabeth Bright.

But Montpelier swept the doubles — notably dealing the senior tandem of Lois Alberts and Emma Franklin their only loss of the spring — and claimed the other two singles matches.

MUHS Coach Jill Dunn credited both teams, but said Wednesday was the Solons’ day.

“We played them last time, and we came out on top, and it was just as close this time really,” Dunn said, adding, “Hats off to Montpelier, absolutely.”

Dunn also had plenty of praise for her team. Carrara survived a strong challenge from Solon Daphne Lassner. Carrara hung on to win the first set, and then Lassner rather easily claimed the second set. But Dunn said Carrara showed resiliency by bouncing back to dominate the decisive tiebreaker.

“She pulled it through. That’s what’s great about tennis. You can come back from a bad set and flip the switch and start fresh, and that’s what she did,” Dunn said. “There’s a lot of match toughness that comes along with being able to do that.”

Dunn noted Bartlett and Bright each completed undefeated seasons.

“Jules at No. 2 is just about as steady as you can get,” she said. “Lizzie at No. 4 came back stronger at No. 4 than the first time she played her.”

Dunn acknowledged Alberts and Franklin’s loss was pivotal, but that she knew going in that match could go either way after her top doubles team’s 7-5, 7-6 win the first time around. This time their opponents, Sophie Sevi and Emily Swenson, were more assertive, using their height to challenge the Tigers effectively at the net.

“These girls came back strong. They were a stronger team than we saw a month ago,” Dunn said.  “Our girls aren’t used to that aggressive net play, where they’re both coming in to the net to close points.”

The other matches, losses for senior No. 3 singles Abby Bailey, freshman No. 5 singles Paige Hescock, and the No. 2 doubles team of seniors Bridget Graham and Gwen Troumbley followed the form of the team’s first match— relatively comfortable victories for the Solons.

All those Tigers have solid winning records this spring against most opponents (for example, Hescock won all her matches except against Montpelier), but the Solons weren’t most opponents.

“They have depth. Their fifth singles is just as strong a player in their lineup as any of their other players,” Dunn said. “You don’t often see girls coming in closing with volleys at fifth singles.”

Dunn also said the result should not take away from what the Tigers’ accomplished on and off the court this spring. The players, importantly, enjoyed their season.

“We’ve really built a nice fabric of the team,” Dunn said.

And they established the program as a serious competitor.

“We were very aware that it’s been 25 years since Middlebury has been in a final. We were hoping to clinch it, but we plan on coming back next year,” Dunn said. “We’re losing six seniors, but we have an amazing group of girls who have the bar set.”

The scores of the matches were:

At No. 1 singles, Scarlett Carrara, MUHS, defeated Daphne Lassner, MO, 6-4, 3-6, 10-2 tiebreaker.

At No. 2 singles, Julia Bartlett, MUHS, defeated Kenzie Golonka, MO, 6-2, 6-1.

At No. 3 singles, Abby Bailey, MUHS, lost to Grace Murphy, MO, 6-0, 6-1.

At No. 4 singles, Elizabeth Bright, MUHS, defeated Sydney Dunn, MO, 6-0, 6-1.

At No. 5 singles, Paige Hescock, MUHS, lost to Rochana Cherion, 6-1, 6-1.

At No. 1 doubles, Emma Franklin/Lois Alberts, MUHS, lost to Sophie Sevi/Emily Swenson, 6-3, 6-2.

At No. 2 doubles, Gwen Troumbley/Bridget Graham, MUHS, lost to Chloe Monteith/Georgia Schiff, MO, 6-2, 6-1.

 

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