Centaurs finish season with 12-5 record
The state tournament, as far as team competition is concerned, was a short one for the Woodstock Academy girls tennis team.
Woodstock Academy, the No. 5 seed in the Class M state tournament, ran into a Fairfield County team, 28th-seeded St. Joseph, which came in sporting a .500 record.
That record didn’t do the Cadets justice who left with a 5-2 victory over the Centaurs Friday in the qualifying round match played at Shepherd Hill Regional High School in Dudley, MA.
Rachel Holden scored the only singles victory while the third doubles team of Izetta Asikainen and Sophia Rakovan scored the only other victory.
The loss ended the Centaurs season with a 12-5 record.
Several of the Centaurs have qualified for the CIAC State Open championship which is an individual tournament
It begins on June 1.
Mari Ruggeri and the Centaurs No. 2 doubles team of Rachel Lambert and Emma Durand had some excitement during the week prior to the state tournament.
Ruggeri advanced to the semifinals of the Eastern Connecticut Conference but had to play Stonington’s Maddie Hamm.
Hamm, the tournament’s top seed and eventual champion, downed Ruggeri in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
“It was the best she played all year,” said girls tennis coach Ann Rathbone. “She went down with a fight. The score wasn’t indicative of the match.”
Hamm had beaten Ruggeri twice in the regular season.
Lambert and Durand’s appearance in the semis was unexpected.
The two had to defeat their teammates, second-seeded Caitlyn Sroczenski and Adeline Smith, in the quarterfinals.
“They played each other tough. Our No. 2 team was not going to hand it to our No. 1 and there was a little trash talking before the match,” Rathbone admitted. “They asked me which team I was going to talk to and I said, ‘That’s a good question.’”
Rathbone, obviously, talked to both teams during the match.
Lambert and Durand came away with the 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory to advance to the semifinals.
“I thought they might be dragging, but they were looking forward to compete in the semifinals. It really pumped them up,” Rathbone said. “What has helped our team all year has been the doubles play which is not usually our strong point.”
Lambert and Durand, however, ran into a strong East Lyme doubles team and fell, 7-5, 6-2, in the semifinals last Wednesday.
The rest of the team finished up the regular season.
Even without their top singles player and one of their doubles teams, the Centaurs won their regular season closer over Ledyard last Wednesday, 6-1.
Hannah Darigan came away with a victory at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-0, over Lilia Bardo.
Holden and Smith, who was undefeated in five singles matches this season, also posted singles wins.
Doubles pulled off the sweep with Sroczenski, teamed with Sophia Rakovan; Annabelle Basturas and Jackie Trudeau and Gabby Garbutt and Madison Skellett taking home wins.
“It was about what I expected,” Rathbone said of the final 12-4 regular season record. “I would have liked to have a couple of more matches. Usually, I play a full schedule so to only get 16 matches in felt a little strange. We normally have about 15 wins, but the record was fine. The weather was crazy.”
For example, the Centaurs Senior Day match with Northwest Catholic scheduled for last Monday was rained out and could not be rescheduled.
Ruggeri, Smith and Sroczenski were named Eastern Connecticut Conference First team All-Stars.
Sroczenski was also the ECC Scholar-Athlete and the ECC sportsmanship Award went to Rakovan.
Week 7 review: Centaurs fall to Stonington, but earn share of title
Winning a match against a strong team like Stonington isn’t something that doesn’t happen often.
Trying to do that twice in one season?
Woodstock Academy girls tennis coach Ann Rathbone knew that was likely the case,
“Stonington was a sleeping bear and if you poke a sleeping bear, it’s going to come back at you with everything it has. I knew it was going to be difficult,” said Rathbone.
The veteran coach was right.
Stonington came primed for a rematch and posted a 6-1 victory over the Centaurs in the match played at Killingly High School on Saturday.
The win didn’t totally ruin the Centaurs day.
Woodstock Academy (11-4), with the previous over the Bears, earned a share of the Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I title with Stonington. The two teams finished with 5-1 league records.
"We're really happy," said senior Mari Ruggeri. "Stonington has been taking the title for the past few years and to finally beat them, taking at least a part of the title, is a super-huge goal for us and was the goal all season."
It's the first Division I regular season title since 2015 and eighth overall for Woodstock Academy.
“That’s really special,” Woodstock Academy junior Rachel Holden said. “I don’t think we’ve ever beaten Stonington (the Centaurs had not prior to the 4-3 victory on May 8). The last time someone beat them was a long time ago and it just feels great.”
The last Eastern Connecticut Conference teams to beat Stonington were East Lyme and Waterford, who each took a match from the Bears in 2014.
Rathbone realized the Centaurs may be in for a long day when Stonington’s No. 2 singles player, Ainsle Johnston, suited up for her match.
“She was pretty heavily taped but she is a good little player. She hits a lot of slice which kind of threw(Morgan Bassett) off. She changed the lineup and I told my girls, ‘We just have to take care of what we do.’ That’s what we concentrated on,” Rathbone said.
Bassett suffered a 4-6,3-6 loss to Johnstone while Maddie Hamm handed the Centaurs’ top singles player, Ruggeri, a 2-6, 1-6 loss.
Hannah Darigan also suffered a 4-6, 1-6 defeat before Holden pulled out the lone singles victory, a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Holly Foster.
“It was really hard,” Holden said. “(Foster) hit everything back. I just had to push through. I just kept hitting it to her backhand and getting it deep to her and she had trouble with that.”
Woodstock Academy guaranteed itself the share of the Division I title earlier in the week when it prevailed over East Lyme.
The Centaurs, actually, had to play two matches on Tuesday.
But it was the first one that they were most concerned about.
The Centaurs survived a 2 1/2 hour battle with the Vikings and posted a 5-2 victory.
The Centaurs split the singles matches with the Vikings with Ruggeri winning at No. 1 singles and Darigan at No. 3.
"It was close and (East Lyme) is really good. That was a huge win," Rathbone said. "It was nip-and-tuck all the way and it wasn't looking good at times."
Ruggeri started things right for Woodstock Academy with a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
"Every time out there, (Rathbone), says 'Mari, everyone is looking at you, you have to have high energy and set the pace,’" Ruggeri said.
She did and so did Darigan at third singles.
The sophomore downed Shauna Kim, 7-6, 6-2.
"It was probably one of her best matches of the year. She played a really good opponent and played very well," Rathbone said.
Darigan "tweaked" her knee, according to Rathbone, during the match but was able to continue on.
Woodstock Academy then swept the doubles with the effort of second doubles Emma Durand and Rachel Lambert standing out.
The duo lost the first set, 4-6, but rebounded to win the next two, 7-5, 7-5.
"That was the key match and it was crazy," Rathbone said.
Following the win over East Lyme, the Centaurs had to travel down the road to Waterford and saw their three-match win streak come to an end at the hand of the Lancers, 4-3.
Due to the injury suffered by Darigan and a tough match played by Holden, the two sat the nightcap.
Adeline Smith and Jackie Trudeau filled in at singles with Smith winning.
Ruggeri also posted a second win on the day while Gabby Garbutt and Emma Hovestadt were winners at third doubles.
It was a case of no rest for the weary.
The Centaurs had to play three matches in two days.
It has not been an easy schedule due to the weather problems the area has experienced, but the Centaurs girls tennis team didn't appear to be worse for the wear.
Woodstock Academy downed Killingly, 6-1, on Wednesday.
The Centaurs kept the top of their lineup consistent with Ruggeri and Bassett both getting straight victories.
Smith calmly stepped back into the singles ranks and remained undefeated with a 6-0, 6-4 victory at No. 3 singles.
Lambert also had to step into the singles ranks and found the transition a bit difficult with a 2-6, 6-2, 6-7 loss at fourth singles.
The Centaurs went home with the victory when they swept the doubles competition.
Week 6 review: Win over Stonington was sweet
It was a long time in coming.
The Woodstock Academy Centaurs have been a member of the Eastern Connecticut Conference since 2000.
In that time, according to coach Ann Rathbone, the girls tennis team has never defeated Stonington.
That changed last Wednesday when the Centaurs finally got the monkey off their backs with a 4-3 win in Stonington.
“It’s my 19th season playing against (Stonington coach) George Crouse and we’ve never beaten him,” Rathbone said. “We had to take advantage of the fact that they are a little down this year. They lost a lot of their starters. When I saw that (published preview), I immediately printed it out and gave it to the girls and said. ‘This is our year. We have to be ready to jump on this.’ We will take it.”
The problem is the season is not over.
The Centaurs still have second matches to play against two Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I opponents including another encounter with the Bears.
The Centaurs (9-2 overall) are on top of the division at 4-0 heading into those matches after a 5-2 win over Fitch on Saturday.
“We have a huge target on our back right now. The (division) title is still up for grabs. It could be co-champs. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing,” Rathbone said.
The Centaurs did that against the Falcons.
Woodstock Academy started on the wrong side of the score when No. 1 singles player Mari Ruggieri fell to Samantha Cote 0-6, 2-6.
Morgan Bassett evened things up with a 6-0, 6-0 victory at the No. 2 singles.
But the back-and-forth continued when Hannah Darigan fell at No. 3 singles 1-6, 1-6 and Rachel Holden persevered for a 7-5, 7-5 victory at No. 4.
The doubles teams ended all doubts.
Adeline Smith and Caitlyn Sroczenski posted a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 1 doubles. The team of Rachel Lambert and Emma Durand were 6-3, 6-1 winners at second doubles. Annabelle Bastura and Jackie Trudeau completed the sweep with the 6-1, 6-1 victory in their doubles match.
It was a nice way to put a star on a week that was memorable already after the win over the Bears.
“It’s a good milestone for us,” Bassett said. “We can all be proud of it and dig that match out of archives when we need it and say, ‘We beat Stonington, we got this against any other team.’”
The Centaurs battled down to the wire against the Bears.
Ruggeri lost to Stonington’s Maddie Hamm 6-1, 6-1, but the Centaurs rallied in No. 3 and 4 singles.
Darigan posted a 6-2, 6-0 win over Holly Foster and Holden prevailed 6-3, 6-1 over Erin Metherway.
The first and second doubles teams, however, stumbled.
Smith and Sroczenski lost 1-6, 4-6 at No. 1 doubles and Bastura and Trudeau were downed, 5-7, 2-6.
It put the pressure on the No. 3 doubles team of Izetta Asikainen and Sophia Rakovan.
At the start, things did not look so encouraging.
They lost the first set to Grace Milne and Mia Lewendowsky 1-6.
Asikainen and Rakovan had provided the winning margin in 4-3 victories over Fitch and RHAM.
“I was looking at my lineup (Wednesday). I have a lot of depth but I thought, third doubles? Why not. When they walked off losing that first set, 1-6, I thought, ‘Well, it’s not going to happen (Wednesday),’” Rathbone said.
The Woodstock Academy coach continued to watch the other matches and noted that third doubles were still on the court.
Asikainen and Rakovan won the second set, 6-4.
The third went six games each to force a tiebreaker which was just as much a back-and-forth battle with the Centaurs duo finally pulling out the 14-12 win.
Bassett, the second singles player for the Centaurs, was able to watch some of that tussle while her match was in progress and gained some momentum from their perseverance.
The senior had to take Advanced Placement tests and arrived to the match late.
It pushed Bassett’s match with Alison Margolice to last in the line.
And suddenly, the match as a whole was on the line.
“There was a little pressure, a lot of people watching,” Bassett said. “I knew, after talking to Coach Rathbone, that it had to be done and we were not going to get another opportunity like this in a long time.”
Bassett has been hovering near the .500 mark in individual matches this season and was questioning herself.
“I’m really proud of her because she stepped up to the No. 2 spot and has asked me the past couple of days, ‘What do I have to do to get a win?’ She’s been really close. I told her that it doesn’t matter if she wins, it’s about playing hard and setting an example for the rest of the team. She has bought into that,” Rathbone said.
This time, however, the Centaurs needed the win.
The senior provided it.
She won the first set 6-4.
But Bassett made it a little nerve-wracking when she lost the second by that same score, only to come back and roll to a 6-0 win in the third set.
“That was a pretty dominant performance in the third set which was easier on my nerves. You never know how that set is going to go,” Rathbone said.
Bassett admitted her match was long.
“It was really exciting,” Bassett said after her victory. “The girls stormed the court and gave me a bunch of hugs and stuff. We were screaming for what seemed like 20 minutes on the Stonington court. It was the best feeling.”