June 30, 2010 // Local

Saint Joseph’s girls’ tennis team takes state championship

The Saint Joseph’s High School tennis team poses for a team photo, showcasing the state championship trophy they won June 5.

By Susan Lightcap

SOUTH BEND — The welcoming home gathering may have been small, but the excitement and enthusiasm for the newly crowned state champions was anything but trivial.

A June 5 state tournament that became a 12-hour marathon and a ride home from Indianapolis that was delayed by storms and strong winds placed the team’s arrival at Saint Joseph High School at 2 a.m. Sunday morning. An exhausted but exuberant tennis team made the last several miles of their trip with an escort of four police cars. It may have been the middle of the night but the return of the state championship tennis team was loudly and proudly announced with sirens and horns blaring as they mounted that last hill. Neither the hour nor size of the “crowd” was relevant to the celebration, which took place on the steps of the gym.

The team, coaches, parents, family members, Principal Susan Richter and a few faithful faculty reveled in the moment. Pictures were taken with the trophy proudly displayed.

The day was long and the victory hard-fought. As Lewis Bagley, South Bend Tribune writer, put it: “The title match had everything you’d want in a championship event: Tense three-set matches; plenty of nervous energy; long, drawn-out points; brief eruptions of positive and negative emotions; battles right down to the final point.”
Team members Alaina Roberts, Jessica Rink, Darby Mountford, Elle Harding, Bridget Veldman, Abby Watkins, Kayle Sexton and Michele Fredlake had defeated Zionsville in the quarter finals, 4-1, and Center Grove in the semi-finals, 5-0, to reach the final against Columbus North.

Rain forced the championship inside where the availability of fewer courts contributed to the 12-hour final.

Saint Joseph’s number 1 and number 2 singles players, Alaina Roberts and Jessica Rink, both pulled out three set wins over previously unbeaten opponents.
After the victory, Rink was quoted, “We believed we could do this and yet I still can’t believe we did it!”

Both number 1 and number 2 doubles had easy wins. Number 2 Abby Watkins and Kayle Sexton won 6-0, 6-4, while the number 1 duo Elle Harding and Bridget Veldman took a 7-6 (3), 6-2 victory.

Although they gave Saint Joe a 2-0 lead, there was little opportunity to relax. Alaina Roberts, Jessica Rink, and number 3 singles player Darby Mountford all lost their first sets. Roberts commented on what the coach had been telling them all season: “We’ve been told all along that you can turn things around no matter what. Just keep trying.”

The advice of Coach Bill Mountford and Coach Dan Rogers certainly did not fall on deaf ears. And this same group of talented and dedicated players will continue to listen to their coaches. With no seniors on the team, the Saint Joseph’s High School girls’ tennis team will be back next year with that exciting possibility of back-to-back state championships. As Coach Mountford was quoted as saying, “We won’t be sneaking up on anyone next year. … We’re just going to enjoy this right now.”

The number 1 doubles team of Elle Harding and Bridget Veldman had little time to relax and revel in the state championship. With the team competition over, it was time for the individuals to compete for their state titles. Although falling short of the number 1 spot, this dynamic team finished runner-up in the state. This same doubles team placed third in the state last year. With a second-place finish this year, one would like to believe that their senior year they are destined to take the top spot. After all, that is what this tennis team is all about … believing.

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