Mount Greylock Girls Claim Western Mass Tennis Title
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- The seniors on the Mount Greylock girls tennis team spent years building to Thursday’s Western Massachusetts Division 3 championship match.
And a pair of underclassmen made sure it was everything they hoped it would be.
Mai O’Connor and Piper Schulman won a second-set tiebreak to give the Mounties the third point it needed to clinch a 3-2 win over Lee and a sectional crown.
“The three captains, Mia [VanDeurzen], Charlotte [Sanford] and Hannah Gilooly came in not really playing tennis,” Mount Greylock coach John Jacobbe said. “And then, you know, they made themselves very good tennis players by ninth or 10th grade. And now as seniors, they won a Western Mass Championship.
“And the two doubles players come and work very hard every day at practice. Piper puts in a lot of time with lessons. And Mai is a competitive eighth-grader who I knew the pressure wouldn’t bother her. And Piper sometimes struggles with pressure, but I thought she stepped up and helped win us a Western Mass title.
“I’m so proud of Piper.”
And she definitely was feeling that pressure.
“Yeah, it was really, really stressful,” Schulman said. “We were watching a bunch of Lee’s people win, and in the second set we saw that only [VanDeurzen at No. 1 singles] had won so far. So we were like, ‘Uh-oh. If we don’t win, then we’re not gonna win.
“So it was a little stressful.”
Schulman, a junior, said Thursday’s second set was the most pressure she ever has felt in an athletic competition, and it did not help that, as the last match on the court, second doubles attracted a huge crowd of onlookers for the last couple of games and the tie-breaker.
O’Connor and Schulman were down, 5-3 and 6-5 in the second set before prevailing, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) against the Wildcats’ Lauren Durken and Sophie Herman.
Mount Greylock’s other two points came in singles, where VanDeurzen defeated Caroline Maloney, 6-2, 6-4, and Sanford beat Lizzy Brown, 6-3, 6-2.
Lee got a win at second singles, where Rachel Wendling topped Gilooly, 6-3, 6-3, and at first doubles, where the tandem of Cindy Ni and Amy Desiata defeated Izzy Leonard and Olivia Winters, 6-3, 6-2.
Lee had a 2-1 lead before Sanford finished her match at third singles, unleashing a flood of observers to the far court to track what everyone then knew would be the decisive match.
“It was definitely very stressful,” Schulman said. “The tie-breaker was very stressful, yeah, it was a lot of pressure.”
The last thing Jacobbe was going to do was add to their stress.
“I usually talk to [players] after the first set, but I leave them alone because I make them nervous,” he said. “They told me that. And as a coach, sometimes you have to coach and sometimes you have to step back. And they won the first set pretty easily, so I stepped back.
“When Charlotte [Sanford] went up, 5-2, I went down to let them know I’d be watching to put a little pressure on them because we were down 5-3, and I thought there was a chance we’d go to a third set. But I didn’t coach them because I didn’t coach them all year. So whatever they did to gather their nerves and play great tennis, they did on their own. As a coach, I feel proud knowing when to coach and when not to coach, and they did it on their own.”
It helped that Schulman and O’Connor are so compatible on the court.
“It’s been awesome this year,” Schulman said. “She’s been such a good doubles partner. It’s been perfect. We really complement each other. I feel like she’s really great at the net.”
And, Jacobbe said, Schulman hits the ball as well as anyone in the Mounties’ doubles rotation. He also is quick to point out that the Mount Greylock program is deeper than the seven players on Williams College’s courts on Thursday.
“We had 13 girls that showed up almost every day to practice,” he said. “I’m just super proud of all the girls who stuck with it, and they get to be part of it. They weren’t in the matches, but the program had a great group of girls, great senior leadership, and they found a way to get it done.
“I’ve coached over 20 years of high school tennis. We’ve been to the semifinals a lot of years. To get to the finals was a step in the right direction, but to pull it off, I’m just super proud of them, and they deserve it.”
The Lee Wildcats (7-2) fell just short in their bid to win a third straight Western Mass title and their bid to take the rubber match against the Mounties.
Mount Greylock takes a 10-1 record into Saturday’s state semifinal against Central Mass champion Advanced Math and Science Academy of Marlborough (16-0).
Whenever Mount Greylock’s season ends, Jacobbe will have one more piece of business to attend to thanks to Thursday’s win.
“The first day of practice, I saw Izzy’s tattoo, and they said if we get it [the coach has to get a tattoo],” Jacobbe said. “I guess I said it, too. That was the first thing they said to me when they won, so I guess if it motivated them, it’s worth it.
“I’ve talked about getting a tattoo my whole life. I’ve never gotten one. Both my brothers have one. It’s no big deal. I’ll figure it out. But for them to be excited about me getting a tattoo -- I’m happy that they get to enjoy this moment. I hear them laughing and just enjoying the moment. It’s well deserved. … And we beat the best team in the draw in the finals. To beat Lee, as good as Lee has been the last few years, it’s a huge accomplishment, let alone to win a title.”