Alexis Day wanted to play tennis on a team so badly during her freshman year at the Wakefield School that she used to beg everyone she knew to help get one started. But only four girls--including Day--ended up coming out for the team that year (1997), and that wasn't enough to field a squad.
Those days seem like a long time ago. On Tuesday, the Wakefield girls tennis team--which now has 15 members--recorded its biggest victory of the season, a 4-3 win over Notre Dame in a match at the Foxcroft School.
"This is a huge win," said Day, a junior and the Fighting Owls' top player. "This is the first year that Wakefield has shown something in tennis. Last year, we were just coming back from not having a tennis team for three years, and now this year we beat Notre Dame."
Notre Dame (7-1) has been the Delaney Athletic Conference's top program for the past three years. Since the start of the 1997 season--which they finished undefeated, sweeping the regular season and tournament titles--the Dragons are 30-2 (including Tuesday's match) and have won the conference tournament three years in a row.
The Dragons took a 3-2 lead after singles, on the strength of victories by sophomore Kristen Ritenour, sophomore Claire Kettering and junior Cara Pinciaro. Ritenour fought off Wakefield sophomore Amanda Huffman, 8-6, in the afternoon's best match, which lasted more than one hour.
Day beat Jessica Turbitt, 8-1, in No. 1 singles, handing the Notre Dame senior her first loss of the season. Turbitt left after her singles match and did not play doubles because of an SAT preparation course.
Turbitt's departure meant that Notre Dame Coach J.D. Almond had to shuffle his doubles lineup: Kettering and junior Meggie Galvan, who normally play No. 2 doubles, moved up to No. 1 doubles, and Ritenour (Turbitt's usual partner) matched up with Pinciaro at No. 2 doubles.
Day and sophomore Janelle Stevenson beat Kettering and Galvan, 8-5, and then Wakefield clinched the match when Huffman and eighth-grader Aleta Sprague topped Pinciaro and Ritenour, 8-4.
"Wakefield came out ready to play," Almond said. "I knew that we were going to be flat because we hadn't played since Wednesday, but that doesn't matter and that doesn't take anything away from Wakefield."
Wakefield is now 4-1; its only loss came against Notre Dame, 6-1, on Sept. 10. The Fighting Owls have improved steadily under second-year coach Joan Moore. There are no tennis courts at the school in The Plains, so the girls travel to Marshall Middle School, a 15-minute drive, to practice.
"This is a pretty happy group," Moore said. "I think that the team grew because of the types of girls we have on the team. Everyone is involved; whoever is not playing in a match keeps notes on the matches. That way, the players are aware of what they are doing right and wrong."
No. 1: Alexis Day (WS) def. Jessica Turbitt (NDA), 8-1; No. 2: Kristen Ritenour (NDA) def. Amanda Huffman (WS), 8-6; No. 3: Claire Kettering (NDA) def. Aleta Sprague (WS), 8-5; No. 4: Janelle Stevenson (WS) def. Meggie Galvan (NDA), 8-3; No. 5: Cara Pinciaro (NDA) def. Kelly Letard (WS), 8-1.
No. 1: Day/Stevenson (WS) def. Kettering/Galvan (NDA), 8-5; No. 2: Huffman/Sprague (WS) def. Pinciaro/Ritenour (NDA), 8-4.
CAPTION: Amanda Huffman moves in for Wakefield School, which in 1997 didn't have enough players to field a team. On Tuesday, Fighting Owls beat a dominant Notre Dame team that entered match with 30-1 record since '97.