Falmouth girls' tennis reaches milestone
For many years now, it's been the Falmouth girls' tennis team, then everybody else and last week, the Yachtsmen cemented their status as the most successful program in state history with a nice round number.
As in 100 match wins in a row.
Falmouth set the benchmark, which also happens to be a state record, last Tuesday, fittingly against the program which once upon a time went undefeated for six straight seasons, Cape Elizabeth.
While the Yachtsmen were producing their usual clinical 5-0 victory (as Olivia Leavitt at first singles, Julia Brogan at second singles, Caroline Ray at third singles, Katie Ryan and Kate Kelley at first doubles and Amanda Watson and Mary Hyland at second doubles all won in straight sets), the match also served as a "HOPE" breast cancer awareness.
Pink tennis balls were used, pink hair ribbons and pink baggies of pre-match goodies were distributed to players on both teams and pink Gatorade, pink watermelon and blue frosted cupcakes were on-hand.
Falmouth last suffered a loss May 2, 2008, 3-2 to Waynflete. The Yachtsmen then won nine matches in a row to end that season, tacked on four more playoff wins and went 16-0 in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013 en route to six straight Class B state championships in all.
Falmouth entered 2014 on a 93-match streak and took its first six this spring by 5-0 margins, setting the stage for last Tuesday's accomplishment.
"Interestingly enough, I had not been conscious of the pending milestone
until someone else pointed it out to me," said Falmouth coach Sandra Stone, who has turned the Yachtsmen program into the state's gold standard. "Then, I was
uncertain whether my mentioning it to the players in advance would be
appropriate or even motivating and felt it might not be very 'sportswoman-like' to plan to focus on the significance of a single match or celebrate at the expense of an opponent. I didn't want to put unconscious pressure on the players, as last year the girls would put pressure on themselves and voice their concerns about not wanting to be the ones to lose a match, which is not what I want the matches to be about."
Following the historic victory, the players presented Stone with a giant pink tennis ball and gave her 100 roses.
"It was really special," said Stone, who made a point of praising her past and current assistants Prisca Levesque Thomson, Barb Neff and Cindy Churchill. "It's been such an honor to have been part of (the girls') achievement. I have been so fortunate to repeatedly coach such a skillful group of players who benefit from excellent professional instruction and regional tournament play in the offseason. Actually, some of the best challenge they get is playing each other, so we mostly do challenges and point play at practices. I think it has been about creating a fun and supportive culture, with solid expectations in addition to the excellent athleticism in Falmouth that has sustained the success over the years."
The Yachtsmen have bigger goals in mind this spring, as they move up to Class A for the tournament for the first time (due to increased enrollment figures). Falmouth, which produced consecutive wins 101 and 102 (5-0 over Kennebunk and Fryeburg), played at North Yarmouth Academy Tuesday, welcomes three-time defending Class C champion Waynflete Thursday, then wraps up the regular season Friday at home versus York. Then comes a new crop of opponents for the playoffs.
If all goes well, the Yachtsmen (who were second to reigning Western A champion Portland in the Heal Points at press time) will celebrate a seventh straight crown, stretch their match win streak to 109 and look to keep both runs going in 2015.
For this group, there's no end in sight.