LYNNFIELD — When it comes to postseason tournaments, every high school coach knows it never hurts to have a little bit of luck in the seeding process. Just ask Bishop Fenwick girls tennis coach Paula Hannon.
The Lynnfield Pioneers girls tennis team have owned the North tournament for the past four years, winning four straight titles and also a state championship (2014) after earning the top seed.
This year, however, the Pioneers were forced to do something they had not done during that stretch, and that was to play a first round match.
Unfortunately for Hannon’s Crusaders, that match was against No. 11 seeded Fenwick, thanks to a coin flip that relegated the Pioneers to the No. 6 seed.
For a second straight season, the Pioneers prevailed, winning 4-1 on a sunny Saturday afternoon at the middle school to advance to Tuesday’s quarterfinals at Swampscott Middle School against the No. seed Big Blue, which had a first round bye.
“We haven’t played Swampscott in a few years, but they are always a solid team, so it should be a good match,” said Lynnfield coach Craig Stone, the MIAA and CAL Girls Tennis Coach of the Year. “Today, everyone played well. The good thing about having to play in the first round was we got to play our last match of the season at home.”
Both teams were well known to each, having played five matches over the past two years, all won by Lynnfield.
Last year, the Crusaders finally broke a 6-year winless streak in the tournament with a win in the first round. Their reward was a date with the Pioneers, who cruised to a 4-1 quarterfinal win.
This year, Lynnfield took every match in straight sets except the first singles match after freshman Megan Nevils retired with an injured wrist after losing the first set to Fenwick senior captain and Catholic Conference League MVP Kerry Kircher, 7-5.
Sophomores Celeste Joly and Claire Yang staked Lynnfield to a 1-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-2 win at second doubles over sophomore Maria O’Donnell and junior Sarah Blessington.
Five minutes later, Lynnfield senior exchange student Bela Ferreira made it 2-0 with a win at love with a win over sophomore Anna Young in the third singles match, 6-0, 6-0.
After Kircher got the Crusaders on the board with her win, Lynnfield junior captain Alexa Vittiglio clinched the match with a 6-3, 6-4 win over sophomore Brenna Waldinger at second singles.
CAL all-stars Gillian Skelley, a sophomore, and freshman Emma Gallucci capped the scoring with a 6-3, 6-2 win at first doubles over Abby Graumann and junior Niamh Walsh.
For Fenwick, it’s back to the drawing board after graduating three senior starters in Kircher, Graumann and Taylor Botthoff, who missed most of the year playing second singles with an injury.
“It will be a rebuilding as we are losing five seniors in all, but we have a good year with some quality wins, both individually and as a team,” said Hannon. “Kerry played a great match today to get a point for us and do something we have never done in program history, and that was to never get shut out 5-0 in a single match. We had very good chemistry this year, and I am confident it will carry over into next year.”
Lynnfield improved to 15-4, while Fenwick finished the season 10-9.