The Whitman girls tennis team, undefeated during the regular season, came up just short in the county playoffs Thursday, but not before giving Easthampton a run for their money.
On the strength of singles wins for Rini Halder, Jackie Calamari and Jordana Lanz, the Wildcats went up 3-1 going into the doubles portion. But Easthampton bounced back, winning all three doubles matches to move forward in the playoffs -- despite a nail biter for Whitman’s third doubles team of Carla Thomas and Asha Burdwell, both seniors.
“It was tough, we wanted it really bad, everyone played their heart out,” said third-year Wildcats coach Erika Nichols. “It came down to that third doubles match, which was quite dramatic -- we won the second set on a tiebreaker 7-4, but then lost the third set.”
The match began with Whitman’s No. 1 singles player, 10th grader Rina Halder, who lost the first set 5-7 before cruising to 6-2, 6-0 wins. Senior captain Jackie Calamari had a strong outing, winning her match in two, 6-2, 7-5. Paola Cespedes fought hard but lost her singles match, but junior Jordana Lanz stepped up to the four slot (in the absence of Casey File) and won 6-2, 6-0.
But with Whitman sporting a 3-2 margin going into the third doubles, the win slipped from the Lady Wildcats’ grasp. “Thomas and Burwell lost the first set 5-7, won the second set in a tiebreaker, but lost the third set 3-6.
While Rini Halder goes on to the counties as an individual on Saturday, seeded #4 in the county, the team loss in Easthampton was the end to what Nichols says was an amazing season for the undefeated, 10-0 league champs. Twice through the league cycle, the Wildcats turned back challenges from all comers, with the toughest competition coming from rivals Huntington. “Even with Huntington, we beat them 5-2 both times,” said Nichols.
“We never thought we’d be undefeated at the beginning of the season,” she said. “But we had a lot of girls who were on this team since freshman year, four years on varsity. They worked very hard, and deserved to be there. This is the best season we‘ve had since I‘ve been coaching here.”