June 17, 2024 // Diocese

Saint Joseph Girls Tennis Captures Elusive State Championship

As his team waited to play for a state title after inclement weather forced the championship match indoors, Saint Joseph girls tennis coach Bill Mountford found some extra time on his hands – and he didn’t waste it.

“About an hour and half before we took the court, I got everyone back on the bus, and we went around and told our favorite memories and funniest moments,” Mountford said. “It was a really nice team bonding moment.”

“That was so much fun, because a lot of us have been through this for three or four years together,” senior standout Molly Bellia said. “It was really a great way to relax us and make us remember why we do what we do before we played our last match.”

Provided by Saint Joseph High School
The girls tennis team from Saint Joseph High School holds the state championship trophy after beating Fishers High School on Saturday, June 1.

Bellia and her teammates made their last match count, as the top-ranked Huskies beat No. 2-ranked Fishers 3-2 to capture the IHSAA Girls Tennis State Championship at the Pearson Automotive Tennis Club in Zionsville on Saturday, June 1. The Huskies won at all three singles spots – Bellia at No. 1, Ashi Amalnathan at No. 2, and Anni Amalnathan at No. 3 – to secure the program’s third team state title after coming up short in the state finals the past three years.

“I guess the lesson is that there’s value in perseverance,” Mountford said, referencing the four trips to state by his senior class. “When we walked away last year, which was the closest we’d come to making it happen, we immediately dedicated ourselves to coming back and making it happen in 2024. We knew we had the team to do it, but we had to put down our heads and work hard for a year to finish the job.”

That hard work was on display all year for Saint Joseph. After a loss to six-time defending Kentucky state champion Sacred Heart Academy to open the season, the Huskies reeled off 19 straight wins to reach the state finals. That included regular season and semistate victories against Carmel, the team that had ended Saint Joseph’s season the past three years.

Senior Molly Bellia was named the Mental Attitude Award winner for her efforts on and off the court.

“This year, for sure, we were the favorites all year, and that’s a different kind of pressure,” Mountford said, contrasting the experience to his team’s somewhat unexpected state title in 2010, his second year at Saint Joseph. “I thought the girls responded really well. It’s hard to be that person who’s always hunted, but they were able to perform and make sure to get the wins they needed to.”

Rain forced the championship match indoors, and both teams had to wait several hours for available courts, prompting Mountford’s nostalgic team exercise on the bus. When Saint Joseph (22-1) and Fishers (19-1) finally took the court, Bellia had to move past her defeat in the semifinals and focus on the opportunity at hand. Straight-set wins by Ashi and Anni Amalnathan gave Bellia the chance to claim the deciding point, which she did convincingly in a 6-1, 6-3 victory against Mischa Briggs of Fishers.

“Molly is such a special competitor and such a special kid,” Mountford said. “It was really important that she was able to shake off that loss and be in the right mindset for the final match, and as it turned out, she was our clincher. … Of any kid I’ve ever coached, I don’t think there’s someone I’d rather have in that position to have to win a match to secure victory.”

For Bellia, capturing the state championship as a team was even sweeter than winning the individual state title three years earlier. “Both were absolutely incredible experiences,” Bellia said. “Getting the team title was always my dream, and it was the most special moment because I got to share it with others, with all my friends.”

After the match, Bellia was named the Mental Attitude Award winner, given to a senior in each class who has “demonstrated excellence in mental attitude, scholarship, leadership, and athletic ability.”

With so many responsibilities demanding her attention, Bellia said it’s her Catholic faith that keeps everything in order. “I think my faith is the center thing that helps balance it all,” Bellia said. “It helps put in perspective that these are things that I do, not who I am. I think that helps center me and remind me that in the ups and downs, in the moments of failure, faith is in the center and the most important.”

___ CUTLINES ___

23SaintJoe-1: The Saint Joseph Girls Tennis team poses together after winning the state championship on Saturday, June 1.

23SaintJoe-3: Senior Molly Bellia was named the Mental Attitude Award winner for her efforts on and off the court.

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