Newton South girls’ tennis has record season finish

Newton South’s girls’ tennis team finished the regular season with a record of nine wins and five losses and swung their way to a deep Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) tournament playoff run.

Seeded sixth, the team made it to the Final Four before being defeated by a strong second seeded Boston Latin squad who boasted a regular season record of 13 wins and just two losses. Throughout the season South was led behind the impressive efforts of sophomore Olivia Whitaker, the team’s first single.

En route to the Final Four, South avenged its early round exit from last season’s playoffs as the team defeated Natick 4-1. After dominating Andover in a 5-0 win during the regular season, South again came out on top in the second round winning 4-1 with each set being close and competitive. The team then faced Westford Academy in the Elite Eight who beat South in the regular season. This time with a fully healthy squad, South edged out Westford Academy 3-2. The victory propelled the team to the Final Four where it fell 4-1 to a dominant Boston Latin group.

Last season, seeded sixth as well, South exited the playoffs in the Round of 16 when the group was narrowly defeated 3-2 by 11th seeded Bishop Feehan. Whitaker said the loss served as a learning experience for the team’s playoff run this season.

“Losing to Bishop [Feehan] was tough in the moment, but I think ultimately, it made us a better team,” she said. “We saw that we can’t take any of the first rounds for granted which made us all really lock in for the first round. Instead of being like, ‘Oh, this team is lower seeded so we got this,’ we were all just really focused.”

The team grew closer during the season, spending time together on and off the court. Whitaker said the group’s encouraging environment ultimately aided the team throughout its playoff run.

“During matches, we would talk to each other like, ‘Oh, let’s go! First win! Second win!’ And I think just having that supportive energy kind of helped us get there. Last year, maybe we were missing some of that and weren’t really hyping each other up enough,” she said.

Completing her second season as first single, Whitaker said she felt much more comfortable and confident having gained the experience from her freshman season. Playing opponents who were her friends from her club team added familiarity for Whitaker.

“A lot of my friends are on other teams and are playing first singles, so I get to see a lot of my friends and I kind of know what I’m going into for the matches. Last year, I was a freshman, so I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into and I wasn’t sure how the team would be. But this year because I knew most of the people, I was a lot less stressed out during practice and I was a lot more excited for the matches. I was just more easygoing and I had fun at practice, but I also was really serious during the matches and I just wanted to win everything that I could.”

Playing for a club team and competing in United States Tennis Association (USTA) national and sectional tournaments means playing for South is a unique opportunity for Whitaker who loves competing and dominating on any court and at any level.

“For me, I love just playing the matches and it’s really fun to be in a second and third set and just grinding it out and really feeling all the emotions,” she said. “It’s really helpful for me going into outside tournaments that I get a lot of experience during the [school] season.”

“But another part that I really enjoy is just the team dinners with everybody and just getting ice cream together or whatever it may be. It’s super fun and I love that part.”