Mt. Hope tennis team loses tie breakers and championship match to Prout, 4-2

Photos and story by Richard W. Dionne, Jr.
Posted 11/3/21

Tears began to flow from Cate Merriam’s eyes after she hit a Breck O’Connor serve into the net to lose the twelfth point of a second set tie-breaker and end the championship match as the …

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Mt. Hope tennis team loses tie breakers and championship match to Prout, 4-2

Posted

Tears began to flow from Cate Merriam’s eyes after she hit a Breck O’Connor serve into the net to lose the twelfth point of a second set tie-breaker and end the championship match as the Mt. Hope tennis team lost the Division II championship to Prout, 4-2, at Slater Park on Tuesday night. 

“We fought our butts off,” said senior co-captain Aditi Mehta after the loss. “I cannot be prouder of this group of girls. This was supposed to be a rebuilding year. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Merriam the Huskies third singles player, had forced the tie breaker after losing her first set, 6-4. Players and parents from both teams watched through the fence as Prout held a 3-2 edge with just two matches in play. The steady-playing sophomore managed five set points, but couldn’t break O’ Connor. 

“You have to give Breck from Prout, credit,” said Mt. Hope head coach Geoff Keegan. “She was ripping winners when she needed them.”

The Prout senior used a low slice to force Merriam into errors to win the tie breaker, 12-10, and win the match, 4-2.

“I couldn’t be anymore proud of Cate,” said Coach Keegan. “She’s a sophomore that moved up from doubles last year. Cate’s only going to get better. It’s not the last that you’ll hear about her in Rhode Island tennis.” 

“The team left it all on court,” Coach Keegan said “We made Prout earn it. We can’t be upset with our effort and hopefully it’s a good learning experience-life experience, for these student-athletes and it’ll just make us work harder as a team to hopefully get back there sooner than later.”

 

Dominant White sisters cruised to victories

The White sisters came out swinging for the Huskies and cruised through their matches with a combination of power and finesse. Elsa White the Huskies first singles player beat Meghan Mancini in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1. The left-handed sophomore overpowered Mancini with her serve and groundstrokes. 

“They’ve been a consistent force for us all year,” said Coach Keegan. “Elsa is athletic and shows it on the court. She has worked her tail off. She’s a good player and going to be a top tennis player in the state.”

This was White’s third straight season getting to a championship, with basketball last winter, and softball last spring.

Her older sister, Eva, the Huskies second singles player, thoroughly outplayed Prout’s Mia Renzzulli, winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1. The senior played her best match of the season, strategically using her crisp ground strokes to run Renzulli and force her into errors. 

“I came here wanting to win,” said Eva White, a senior co-captain. “I was playing well and trying to play more smart than hard.”

The right hander targeted spots that her opponent had trouble with. “It was my last match. Possibly for a while. I don’t know if I’m going to play in College. I just gave it my all.” 

White, an excellent student, is attempting to land at West Point or the Naval Academy after high school. 

“It’s too bad we couldn’t get it done for Eva,” said Coach Keegan. “She wanted to be the first Mt. Hope player to win two tennis championships.” 

 

Huskies held a slight 2-1 advantage

The White’s and fourth singles player Ella Quesnelle ended their matches roughly at the same time, with the Huskies holding a 2-1 lead, after Quesnelle put up a tough fight, but succumbed to Prout’s Madeline Mattiucci, 6-3, 6-3. 

Then Huskies third doubles team Sydney DiChiappari and Siena Sousa, lost their match to Prout’s Cat Wanta and Lena Eng, in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4, and suddenly the match was tied and looked bleak for the Huskies. Third singles, first doubles, and second doubles had all lost their first set and were struggling to stay in the match. 

Huskies second doubles team, Zelda Hayes and Laney Dufficy who cliched the first two rounds of the playoffs with come from behind victories, found themselves in a similar situation during their championship match. The pair lost their first set, 6-0, to Prout’s Isabel Leal and Maddie Green and were fighting for their lives, down 5-3 in the second set. 

Hayes and Dufficy, for the third straight match, mounted a comeback and won three games straight to lead the set, 6-5. Hayes was serving as the team got to set point at, 40-40, deuce. 

After a short volley, Hayes looked to have hit the winner, a left-handed cross court shot, just inside the right doubles lane, to push a third set. But the Prout team called the ball out. 

Dufficy immediately objected. The official, who seemingly missed the play, reiterated the call and awarded Prout the game to tie the set, 6-6. Leal and Green won the tie breaker, 7-3, to give Prout a 3-2 lead.

 

First doubles left match unfinished 

The Huskies first doubles team of senior co-captains, Emily Marino and Aditi Mehta, had battled back from losing their first set, 6-3, to Abigail Smith and Leah Hauser. Marino and Mehta fought back and won the second set, 6-4 and were tied, 3-3, in the third set when the crowd erupted as O’Connor beat Merriam to end the match. The seniors had to leave their match unfinished and join their teammates for the plaque and medals ceremony.

“Aditi and Emily are the hardest workers in the room at all times,” said Coach Keegan. “They were great leaders for the underclassmen. This was their first year on varsity. It stinks at the end of the day. Especially because they were close to the finish line and ultimately we just couldn’t pull it off for them.” 

“I’m really happy to have been in tennis,” said Marino, a multi-talented singer and musician. “I don’t play a lot of other sports. Tennis is something that I really worked at. I tried my best and I’m glad that we made it here. Win or lose, We played well and it was a good time. The team was fantastic.”

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