As temperatures begin to drop around the area, the fall sports season begins to draw to a close. The end of a regular season gives a team a chance to reflect on the year’s successes and shortcomings and look forward to the potential of postseason competition. For the Ithaca High School Girls Varsity Tennis squad, the successes from the 2018 season far outweigh the shortcomings.
In a school that has seen an extended run of success of the boy’s tennis team, the girl’s tennis team at Ithaca has created a name for itself over the last few seasons, culminating in a near-perfect season this year. In a sport that is so often viewed, through the lens of the national media, as an individual sport, the Little Red have worked together to push each other toward a dominating season. In 2018, the team has collected 13 wins and suffered only a single blemish on its record.
A successful season, like that of the Little Red, is certainly something to be celebrated and remembered. For the group of seniors who have worked through the building of the program to where it is now, a successful year is even sweeter. “It’s a really big deal for the program and for our senior class,” said Head Coach Mari Mitchell. “These girls started their careers with a losing record and have reached this point in their last season.”
Throughout the season, Mitchell saw her team dominate opponents from start to finish in matches and on the team scorecard. In nine of the 14 matches played this year, the Little Red recorded clean sweeps of opposing teams, winning the matches 7-0. Beyond the shutouts, the team would power through three additional opponents by lopsided scores of 6-1. “These have been big wins for us in all factors,” said Mitchell. “We have our group of seniors who have played well, and everyone is contributing.” The idea that only seven players are making a contributing effort could not be more of a misconception. “Some of these wins allow us to play our eighth and ninth players, and some allow girls farther down the rankings to get playing time and contribute to the win,” says Mitchell.
With the inclusion of the whole team into the action, Mitchell knew to look to her leaders on the team to get the job done. One of the leaders that has been a lock throughout the season has been senior Asha Duhan. Duhan showed a dominance unmatched in Section IV as she rose to the top of the standings after a series of wins. The wins began to pile up for the senior as she maintained perfection, reaching 15-0 in individual matches. With the undefeated recorded, Duhan would showcase her talent on the way to a state qualifying bid after winning the sectional title.
Duhan wasn’t the only member of the squad who would lead the way throughout the season. Jisoo Ha, another senior for the squad, made important contributions to the 13-1 Little Red before bowing out in the sectional tournament.
While the individual side of the formula brings about a state qualifying bid and large contributions throughout the year, the doubles bracket has drawn the attention of the Little Red following. A pair of sophomores, Adele Giovannoni and Kelsea Mitchell, have battled through the sectional tournament and have earned state qualifying bids.
The two championships in the sectional bracket and the strong play from the rest of the team brought about an overall title for Ithaca High School. “Our strong showing earned us enough points to win the sectional for the first time in ten years,” said Mitchell. “That win is big for the girls, for the program, and for the school.”
With a successful season, a sectional title, and the continuation of postseason play, the Little Red have constructed a reputation for both the girl’s and boy’s tennis programs. “With the boys’ success and the girls feeding off of that energy, we have really built a strong tennis program at the school,” said Mitchell. “We have bettered our program and the school’s athletics because of what these girls have been able to do.”
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