By KEVIN ROBERTS
Southington junior captain Abby Murphy had a goal to reach the girls tennis state open championship’s third round (round of 16).
On June 1, Murphy accomplished her goal when she defeated North Haven’s Alexandria Vollero and Sacred Heart-Waterbury’s Ava Longo in the first two rounds of play at Conard High School.
Murphy, the No. 14 seed, saw her run ended with a 6-0, 6-0 loss to third-seeded Isabella Koziol of Wilton in the third round on June 3 at Wesleyan University in Middletown. It was a good run to end a great season, and if anything, the season-ending loss gives Murphy motivation for her senior campaign.
“She’s a special young woman with a fierce desire to compete and improve all the time,” coach Robin Thompson said. “She’s quite the role model for our team.”
Reaching the third round of the state tournament gave Murphy an accomplishment that no other Southington girls tennis player has claimed. Murphy became the first to earn all-state accolades. A singles player must reach the third round of the open to attain all-state status, while a doubles team must get to the quarterfinal round.
“Abby performed very well in the first and second rounds of the state open and achieved her goal,” Thompson said.
Murphy was also an All-CCC West performer, and it was easy to see why. All she did was beat every CCC West No. 1 singles opponent she faced. Thompson said she thought Murphy could be the best player in the division, and fellow coaches confirmed as much after their No. 1 singles player was downed by the left-hander.
Murphy also beat every non-CCC West foe as well, and she finished the regular season with a record of 18-0.
“As for going undefeated, I feel she gained confidence in knowing that she’s put in the time to make herself a better player,” Thompson said. “Mentally, Abby’s always been pretty tough. But with her increased skillset, additional confidence has resulted. She had some close matches, but her previous experience as a sophomore as our top player, coupled with her USTA match experience, helped her achieve the undefeated season.”
Murphy won a singles match for Southington in team tournament play and wound up with a record of 21-2. That doesn’t happen without the hard work she put in during the offseason.
“Outside of scholastic and family obligations, tennis would fill her free time,” Thompson said. “Abby devoted several hours each week getting private lessons. Then she turned to the USTA and enrolled in competitions for her age division. She’s put so much into become a more complete player.”
Murphy was one of five Lady Knights to receive All-CCC West recognition. She was All-CCC West for the third time in three seasons.
Juniors Kate Hardy and Isa Miani earned the accolades as the No. 1 doubles team, and so did juniors Gianna Wadowski and Avery Korp as the No. 3 doubles team.
“For us to have five All-CCC West selections was incredible. We did not win the division as a team but led the division with the number of all conference selections,” Thompson said. “As I’ve stated numerous times, the CCC West Division is the toughest, which makes our five selections even more remarkable.”
Hardy and Miani took over the No. 1 doubles slots vacated by the graduation of Carolyn Callahan and the move to singles by senior captain Chantelle Gimenez. Hardy had varsity experience and Miani didn’t, but they combined to be a force as the No. 1 doubles team through hard work.
“I also think their style of pay complimented each other. There were a few times winning their match secured the overall match win for our team,” Thompson said.
Wadowski and Korp worked well together. Wadowski had varsity experience while Korp did not, but Korp worked hard to improve her game.
“They went in and did their job and could be relied on time and time again to get a win,” Thompson said.
Southington looks to be in position for another good run in 2020. The Knights do lose senior captains Gimenez and Watson to graduation. Gimenez performed well at No. 3 singles while Watson and sophomore Ali Bruce came up with some huge victories at No. 3 doubles.
“It’s always tough to let our seniors go. Collectively, they and I have been through a lot over the four years we worked together,” Thompson said. “They leave our team with two large holes for us to have to fill in 2020.”
Thompson said she’s looking forward to seeing what Southington can do in 2020.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Kevin Roberts, email him at KRoberts@SouthingtonObserver.com