For Portsmouth girls tennis, a season of perfection

Team members celebrate their title in a victory huddle. Team members celebrate their title in a victory huddle.

The Portsmouth High girls tennis team gathers for a team photo after the state championship victory.

PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth High School girls tennis championship victory over Classical this fall was the icing on the cake for what goes down as a season-long performance among the most dominant of any sport in school history.

The numbers speak for themselves.

• The PHS girls won the title game  against a tough Classical team 4-0 (In high school tennis playoffs, other matches come to a halt after one team has four victories).

Team members celebrate their title in a victory huddle.

• They made it to the finals by way of another 4-0 whitewash, this time a semifinal win over Providence Country Day.

• That finals victory capped a perfect 14-0 season for the Portsmouth girls in this, their third season is Division II after moving up from Division III.

• The four singles players (in order from #1 — Kathryn Harper, Skylear Macleod, Melissa Ramsbottom and Julia Harrigan) were a perfect on the season — not one match lost among them. The doubles players were nearly as dominant.

• Seven out of 12 regular season matches were 7-0 shutouts.

“I am very proud of this 2012 team and it was a perfect ending to a perfect season,” said Coach Judy Colman after the title match and her fifth season as head coach.

She knew going into the season that this bunch would be good — just not how good.

“I didn’t think that we would be as strong as we came to be,” she said. “I did know that we had some seasoned and skilled tennis players, but 14-0 … As the season developed though, you could feel that a real momentum was building. They got stronger as the year went on.”

Co-captains Harper (left) and MacLeod being interviewed with the championship plaque.

Coach Colman said the early going —before match play — is always a challenging time on her teams, as players compete for their spots on the team ladder.

“I have a really hard tryout and the girls have to fight for their position.” But once that is done, she is of the belief that the ladder should be allowed to stand.

“It gives them some confidence, some security and lets them build team cohesion, helps them play as a team rather than against each other.”

Although many of the regular season matches were lopsided affairs, there were challenges too that Coleman believes helped make the team stronger.

#3 doubles players Jaime Hole and Paige Colman rejoice after claiming the first match of the championship against Classical, 6-2, 6-3

An early match against Narragansett, “perhaps our toughest opponent all year,” went Portsmouth’s way by a 4-3 score. “That one was a nail-biter, some very tight matches.”

And both matches against Classical (regular season and finals) were good ones.

The championship final score was 4-0 but the match was closer than that score indicates. The three matches still in play were very much up in the air, with the two teams having split their first two games in each.

The four Portsmouth wins, in order of finish, were:

1. #3 doubles, Jaime Hole and Paige Colman, 6-2, 6-3

2. #4 singles, Julia Harrigan, 6-1, 6-3

3. #2 doubles, Taylor MacLeod and Caroline Farrow, 6-4, 7-5

4. #1 singles, Catherine Harper, 6-3, 6-2.

Coach Colman said the team was blessed with effective leadership by senior co-captains Harper and MacLeod.

They were obviously strong leaders on the court but are real contributors in other ways. Both are members of the National Honor Society and the two hosted a four-day tennis camp for children as a fundraiser, something they hope to continue after graduation. Their time on the PHS team dates back to the championship 2009 team when both played as freshmen. Their coach said that Harper intends to play next season at Rensselar Polytechnic Institute and that MacLeod is considering college play as well (she’s still undecided on which school).

“The players on this team deserve to be commended for this outstanding accomplishment as well as for their academic and civic undertakings. Many of the student-athletes on this championship team are also members of the Student Council, Portsmouth High Band, Portsmouth High’s honor roll and National Honor Society.”

The team will take a hit at graduation with five seniors leaving, four from starting positions.

“They’ve been a wonderful group — I’ll miss them all,” Coach Colman said.

This is the coach’s second undefeated team, the first being the 2008 squad that was perfect in capturing the Divison III crown.

The 2012 team ladder, including individual honors, was:

- #1 singles: Senior Co-Captain – Kathryn Harper (2011 & 2012 RI All-State, First Team Singles All-Division)

- #2 singles: Senior Co-Captain – Skyelar MacLeod (First Team Singles All-Division)

- #3 singles Junior – Melissa Ramsbottom (First Team Singles All-Division)

- #4 singles Junior – Julia Harrigan (Portsmouth Sportsmanship Award)

- #1 doubles Seniors -  Mary Lehane and Kaleigh Mendonca(First Team Doubles All-Division)

- #2 doubles Sophomore – Taylor MacLeod and Freshman Caroline Farrow (First Team Doubles All-Division)

- #3 doubles Sophomores – Jaime Hole and Paige Colman

 In addition, the following players were also key to the team’s success: senior Rachel Amundson, juniors Annie Heffernan and Phyllis Morral, sophomores Amanda Damon, Kathleen Brown, Libby Goulart, and freshman Hailey O’Connell.

Assistant Coach is Rick Berube; Volunteer Assistant Coach is Abigail Farrow (former #1 singles player for Portsmouth High).


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