MAU faces its biggest challenge to date
BENNINGTON — The Mount Anthony girls tennis team is in unchartered waters.
After 12 regular season and two playoff matches, the number in the loss column is the same as it was when the season began — zero — and the No. 2 Patriots have reached the semifinals for the first time ever.
If the Patriots are to continue their historic campaign, they'll have to beat a team that doesn't know much about losing in No. 3 South Burlington, who they face on Wednesday at the Bennington Rec Center.
"The bottom line is that we're really looking to win four spots," said MAU co-coach Steve Coggeshall on Monday night. "South Burlington is a classy team and obviously a great team, but we've been chasing the ball all over and have been very determined all year."
Some of the numbers are staggering. There have been 30 years of varsity girls tennis in Vermont and South Burlington has won a state title 17 times. They're also 25-8 all time in semifinals. The Rebels have reached the final the past three seasons, losing last year and in 2013 to CVU and winning it all in 2014.
This season, they come to Bennington with a 14-2 record.
But for Coggeshall, those are just numbers.
"We have to be positive, that's No. 1. They are a super good team and we might have had a better flavor playing them last year," Coggeshall said, referencing if MAU had beaten Brattleboro in the 2015 quarterfinals, they would have faced the Rebels in the semifinal. "Their only losses are to CVU and they play more tough competition on a consistent basis, but looking at our team's game against Colchester, our 1, 2 and 4 were dominant."
All three, No. 1 Margaret Curtin, No. 2 Grace Page and No. 4 Ally White each allowed a single game against them in their matches against the Lakers.
"Grace is just on fire and playing intense tennis, we're definitely counting on her against South Burlington to be one of those four [winning] spots," Coggeshall said. "Margaret and Grace are so close in terms of ability."
White, who also plays varsity basketball, takes full advantage of that athleticness on the tennis court.
"She's very smart about what she's doing now. She's a converted athlete into a tennis player," Coggeshall said. "She's improved so much this year."
The other two singles players for the Patriots, No. 3 Anna Salem and No. 5 Phebe Hall, have only lost one time this season. Salem, a three for MAU, could be a 1 or 2 for a lot of teams in the state and Hall, a senior, is a calming force near the bottom of the lineup.
The doubles teams for the Patriots have been solid as well, No. 1 doubles Thea Pappas and Brooke Young and No. 2 doubles Trinity Galipeau and Caitlin Banks.
For the Rebels, their No. 1 doubles team, Sajani Sivakumar and Kailey Yang, were the champs at the individual tournament last week.
"We know they are the best in the state, but Thea and Brooke have done well this year and we feel that Trinity and Caitlin are a nice weapon as No. 2 doubles," Coggeshall said.
When asked how he and co-coach Tanya Case felt about how the season has gone, Coggeshall thought for a moment, finally going with "pleasantly surprised."
"We felt good things were happening during the scrimmage before the season with BBA," Coggeshall said. "We've built momentum throughout the season."
And no matter the numbers from the past or present, the match is in Bennington, and that's a big advantage.
"They have to travel to us, we earned the No. 2 spot, we earned the right to be home for three rounds of the playoffs," Coggeshall said.
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