Girls tennis gets second chance: Murphy advances at state open

Abby Murphy threads the needle during a first round victory at the state open. Murphy reached the second round at the state meet.



After they were swept, 7-0, at No. 4 Darien in the first round of the Class L tournament on Saturday, May 27, the 13th-seeded Lady Knights thought their season as a team was finished. But Southington got a second chance.

According to the CIAC, Darien self-reported the use of an ineligible player, which was discovered after its victory against Southington on Saturday.

“Darien had a similar issue last year,” said Southington coach Robin Thompson. “This year, it involved a doubles player that played in a club tournament, not a USTA event. When you’re playing for a high school team, you’re not allowed to play for any other team.”

The CIAC released this statement on Tuesday, May 30: “Per CIAC by-laws ‘when it is discovered that a team has used an ineligible competitor in a CIAC team tournament, the tournament game/match shall be forfeited. The team using the ineligible player will be disqualified from the tournament and that team’s last opponent will advance in its place. Teams eliminated prior to the last opponent will not be permitted to re-enter the tournament.’”

You never want to see a high school team get disqualified from any of the state tournaments, but for these young Knights, it was a great opportunity to see high-level tennis for a second time.

“It’s very eye-opening for our kids to see that,” the coach said. “That’s always an opportunity that I’d like to take. It tells our kids that in order to be a top-level program, this is where you need to be.”

In place of Darien, the Knights traveled to Staples High School in Westport to play No. 5 Greenwich on Wednesday, but suffered a second-straight shutout after being blanked, 7-0.

No. 1 singles Kristen Mathew, No. 2 singles Abby Murphy, No. 3 singles Molly Murphy, and No. 4 Carolyn Callahan lost in straight sets. No. 1 doubles Abby Roy and Coral Tommervik, No. 2 doubles Sam Barmore and Nebeeka Saha, and No. 3 doubles Chantelle Gimenez and Joelle Stublarec lost in straight sets as well.

Greenwich eventually fell, 6-1, to top-seeded Staples (22-1) in the semifinals. No. 3 Glastonbury (20-1) advanced to the final with a 5-2 victory over No. 23 Westhill in the semifinals and won their third CIAC Class L title after defeating Staples by a point, 4-3.

State Open

JUNE 3—Southington closed out its season on Saturday when three Lady Knights competed at the state open. Singles were held at Conard High School in West Hartford, and doubles were played down the street at Hall High School.

No. 17 Abby Murphy advanced to the second round of the single tournament after defeating Old Saybrook’s Tanya Gianitsos, 8-4, in the opening round and Woodland’s Allison Mayne, 8-4, in the first round.

“One of the things I worried about was that second match because it took a long time,” said Thompson. “Even though they’re pro sets, they can be mentally exhausting. I’m not sure it affected the outcome, but one of the talking points for Abby going forward will be efficiency and saving your energy for the tough match that hopefully is the last match of the day.”

Murphy’s open run came to an end after she fell, 8-1, to No. 6 Gabriella Dellacono of Stonington in the second round. Before the quarterfinals, Abby Murphy was the only player to win a game against Dellacono.

“As a freshman, just having the opportunity to be in that situation really opened her eyes,” the coach said. “She fought the nerves of being there as a young girl. I just think that it was a great opportunity for Abby, and I’m glad she got it.”

Abby Roy and Coral Tommervik fell, 8-5, to No. 13 Macey Smith and Andrea Hemberger of RHAM in the first round. The open is scheduled to wrap up on Tuesday, June 6 at Yale University in New Haven. The semifinals are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. with semifinal matches between top-seeded Kateri Martin of Darien and No. 4 Alexandria DeNucci of Glastonbury, and No. 2 Cayla Koch of Weston and Dellacono.

Southington finished the season at 13-6 overall. The Knights are losing just two seniors to graduation after this season, which includes No. 1 singles Mathew and No. 2 doubles Roy, but are looking to have a relatively strong team next season with the possibility of returning the rest of the 26 players on their roster.

“We’ll miss two girls from two top-level positions,” said Thompson. “But the experience we’ll bring back, coupled with maybe some more younger underclassmen taking a couple more spots, I think we could have a good 2018. Hopefully, with maybe one or two exceptions, we’ll be on the winning side of things.”

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