GHS girls' tennis captain (l-r) Catie Zak, Olivia Lee, Zoe Gates, and Annee Bess Blair
Glastonbury High School girls’ tennis held court against Berlin last week, sweeping the Redcoats (7-0) on a windy day at GHS on May 2.
The Guardians didn’t drop a set and only lost a dozen total points the entire match behind an experienced lineup in familiar roles.
Captains Catie Zak, Annee Bess Blair, Olivia Lee, and Zoe Gates have also assumed the same positions from last spring when they team won all 15 regular season matches.
Zak is back as the team’s No. 1 singles player after earning all-state as a junior last spring.
Against Berlin, Zak battled through a back and forth first set with Berlin’s Klaudia Fidyk before rallying to steal the set 7-5 and finish the match with a convincing sweep (6-0) in the second set.
“Last year that could have gotten to me,” Zak said about the first set struggles. “Now I feel like I’ve got more confidence. I’ve been playing for 13 years and seven years competitively, so it comes naturally now.”
The unpredictable wind made serving difficult at times, yet Blair –– the No. 2 singles — and Lee — the No. 3 singles — both breezed through their respective matches.
After jumping out to early leads, Blair and Lee each showcased a killer instinct, finishing sets with poise and precision.
“In past years it hasn’t always been as easy for me to finish off a match,” said Blair, who won 6-1, 6-1 over Olivia Salina. “Seeing Catie and Olivia playing their best, it’s definitely easier to pull it together and keep my mental fortitude up and stay strong.”
Lee won 6-0, 6-1 over Isabella Kmita. She jokingly described the team as “a chaotic, but loving group”.
“We have an energy and we’re all excited and support one another,” Lee added. “We all mesh together really well and I think that is so special.”
Sophomore Phoebe Chung played No. 4 singles against Berlin, ousting Sara Rogan 6-2, 6-0.
Gates is captaining on the double side, teaming with sophomore Leila Azimov to create a dynamic duo.
In the team’s only loss this season –– a 6-1 defeat against powerhouse Amity –– Gates and Azimov scored the team’s only victory.
“It’s very important in doubles to have someone that you’re very capable with,” Gates said. “You have to play with someone that matches your energy. I’m fortunate to play with [Leila], we have a very good relationship and I trust her very much.”
Head coach Sharon Murphy praised her captain, calling them “great” and assistant coach Fredy Escudero said the group is doing an ideal job at passing down their wealth of knowledge to the younger players.
“The chemistry they have transfers to the court. We are a very balanced group,” added Escudero, who said that most of the girls are capable of filling any of the roles at both singles and doubles.
The doubles tandems of Nora Andersson Orth / Sammy Chung (6-0, 6-0), Kate Qian / Elliot Finch (6-0, 6-0), and Kiley Gallagher / Sydney Waltz (6-1, 6-1) swept the three doubles matches against Berlin.
Gates said the team feels more connected this year than they did a season ago, adding, “I’ve felt more of a sense of team. What we’ve tried to do is create a more unified community.”
During last season’s undefeated season, the team was still handcuffed by the Covid-restrictions and leaned on a strong senior class for leadership.
“We’ve been fortunate to have such good captains in the past to look up to and that has helped us transition into the role,” said Blair.
The Guardians followed the victory over Berlin with wins over Conard (5-2) and Avon (7-0).
Entering the week, the team has won 11 of 12 matches.
The captains are enjoying the wins, but are also just cherishing the time together.
“I want to end our senior year as a fun one and not a stressful one,” said Lee
Zak added that the teammates have all become very close, adding, “I like to view all of them all as my family.”
The Guardians end the regular season at GHS this Friday, hosting Simsbury on May 20 at 3:45 p.m.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin