Bears are tennis trouble for rest of BL
Bears are tennis trouble for rest of Bll
THOMASTON – Jeff Dauphinais seems to have a perpetual smile on his face these days. Understandable with child No. 1 due any second. But, there is more. His Thomaston High girls tennis team has turned that smile into an ear-to-ear grin.
If you haven’t been paying attention, the Bears certainly should have caught your attention with Thursday’s 4-3 victory over previous undefeated Lewis Mills. The two teams now are tied with 8-1 records while Nonnewaug sits a game back.
Who would have thought that? Probably not Mills or the Bears for that matter. Dauphinais in his 10th season at the helm, knew the Bears would be good but even he admits he wasn’t thinking this good.
“It’s a surprised to be this good,” Dauphinais said. “Our first goal was to be competitive and make the tournament. We are in the tournament. I figured we’d be improved but were also pulling out wins in close matches.”
In Thomaston the spring season is traditionally where the boys track team and baseball team has often grabbed the headlines in recent years with a BL title and state title respectively and the girls softball team makes its annual trek into the state tournament. Tennis has often been an afterthought.
Not this year. Dauphinais’ veteran club has emerged from the shadows and been a bright highlight this spring.
Success is not foreign to the Bears with state tournament appearances in 2003 and 2005 but nor is it a constant either. Numbers have fluctuated and last year the Bears were 6-10. But they are a year older, a year wiser and a year better this time around as the rest of the league is finding out.
“It’s been a couple of years since we made the tournament and it’s nice to see things coming together,” Dauphinais said.
That’s the experience factor. The Bears top three singles players, Emily Yaffe, Kayla Fitzgerald and Mega Catania are all seniors along with Melissa Mohamed and Delina Andrew who compromise two third of the team’s No. 3 doubles team along with junior Rachel Cash.
The recipe for success also includes talent and commitment. Tennis is the No. 1 sport for much of this group the racquets get year-around use, not just a spring-time unveiling.
“I have five girls who play winter tennis,”Dauphinais said. “We’ve never had more than one before. We have returning players from last year’s team and just the experience of playing has helped. They are a little older and a little better.”
Yaffe has more than held her own at the No. 1 singles spot with a 5-4 record against the BL’s best, a league that has a fair share of country club schools. Fitzgerald is enoying a fine final season with a 7-2 mark. Senior Meg Catania has been competitive at the No. 3 singles spot and McKenzie Blair has been a nice addition at the No. 4 spot.
If there is a key to the Bears success, however, it has been in the doubles play. The Berkshire League changed its format this season, going from three singles and two doubles matches to four singles and three doubles matches.
The Bears have benefitted. The No. 1 doubles team of Hannah Russo and Jen Gadomski just lost its first match of the season while No. 2 doubles team of Meg Fitzgerald and Allison Snow are both undefeated. Mohamed, Cash and Andrews have only one loss in the No. 3 spot.
“The way we have been winning is to sweep the doubles and pull out a singles match or two,” Dauphinais said. “The best of seven has helped us. We have won two matches with the extra two spots.”
Interestingly enough it is Mills who feels the extended matches have benefitted its team this season because of depth. Yet, it was the Bears who got the clinching match win in the extra doubles match with Melissa Mohamed and Rachel Cash.
“We thought we could beat Mills. We split with them last year and if our doubles kept on playing like it had been we had a shot.”
Whether the Bears won or lost it is a different spring for Dauphinais’ club. Practicing well, feeling good, brimming with confidence, tennis and Thomaston are in the same conversation in the BL this season. Not always the case. And now tennis, Thomaston and title are in the same conversation. That is a first.
It is a good season with all sorts of good things on the horizon including the state tournament and who knows maybe a shot at the title. Only a close loss to Nonnewaug earlier in the season has separated the team from perfection.
Mills, Thomaston and Nonnewaug all play each other again before the last serve is struck. But for the Bears, the flowers are in bloom and so is the THS girls tennis team this spring.
You can’t spoil this season for Dauphinais with his new family addition ready to arrive. But tennis is a one tasty icing on the cake.