RHAM Girls Tennis Comes Together for Great Season That Ends With State Final Appearence

HEBRON-The RHAM girls tennis team took a huge step forward in 2018. The Sachems, who had a deep squad of both quality singles and doubles players, went 14-3 in the regular season and defeated three opponents in the Class M Tournament as the No. 4 seed, before falling 4-3 to No. 6 Joel Barlow in the championship. It was a tough end for RHAM’s senior-laden team, which was tied midway through the championship. However, its players could look back and be proud of having won the Sachems first non-qualifier games since 2013, when the program last advanced to the championship.

RHAM entered the season with a lot of talented and experienced returnees and it showed, as it raced out to a 5-0 start to 2018 (the team would top this by winning 9 consecutive matches to begin May). Its top two doubles teams of Alexandra Heline/Nikki McManus and Katie Dorman/Jackie Hart featured all seniors, and a significant number of other upperclassmen were key singles and doubles players. However, the Sachems ability to develop players and have inexperienced ones who can make an immediate impact was regularly seen, especially so when sophomore Rachel Dingley and freshman Erin Murray became the #1 and #2 singles players.

RHAM head coach Carolyn Anderson discussed how important depth, experience, and of course talent was to the success of the 2018 edition.

“Having a lot of experience definitely helped prepare us for the season and opponents and those talented senior girls had a lot of chemistry and a will to win. They were also good leaders. Over the course of the season, a number of younger girls stepped up and became valuable players and winners, especially Rachel and Erin. A lot of the time we’re a program that has stronger doubles than singles play, but this season we were competitive everywhere and it helped lead to that run,” Anderson said.

Anderson also discussed the individual strengths which allowed Dingley and Murray to make such quick rises in the team’s hierarchy during the season.

“Rachel is a very versatile player who has a great serve and can put away many different winners. And Erin hits great comebackers and has a strong serve.”

During the regular season RHAM was consistently one of the best teams in the state, winning each match but two by at least two sets and sweeping seven opponents. Its only losses came to South Windsor, Glastonbury and Farmington.

The Sachems entered the M tournament as the No. 4 seed behind Naugatuck, Killingly and East Lyme. RHAM defeated CCC rival Tolland, seeded No. 20, 6-1 in the first round, defeated No. 5 Foran 5-2 in the quarters, and edged No. 8 Farmington 4-3 to advance to the finals against No. 6 Joel Barlow on the 31st. The win over Farmington was especially satisfying for the players after its earlier loss to FHS, when the Sachems were absent multiple top singles players. Anderson discussed her squad’s run to the championship match.

“It was a serious goal of ours to make it to the championship and win entering the season. We played very well against Tolland. I wasn’t sure about the Foran matchup, but the girls stepped up, and then it was very satisfying beating Farmington. We were pretty confident after having girls missing the first time, but a point is a point,” she said.

In the championship match against Joel Barlow, the team’s initially traded sets, with RHAM winning the fourth to tie the score at two. The Falcons won two of the final three matches to secure the M title. The biggest deciding factor was Maddie Massey winning 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 at first singles and Veronica Galban and Kristy Kudej 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 at first doubles.

“The match was very close right to the end. It came down to the last two sets, and ultimately they ended the match better than us,” Anderson said.

Anderson discussed why she would remember the 2018 team so fondly.

“These are a great group of girls. They gave 110 percent and were always focused while being supportive of one another.”

With its two best singles players underclassmen and many other talented girls ready to step into the stops of RHAM’s departing seniors, the program is in good position to remain successful and possibly build momentum on 2018.

“We will definitely build on it,” Anderson said. “The talent and attention we could gain would allow us the ability to contend for the championship each year.”

Rachel Dingley

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