Girls tennis: Agnes Irwin nets share of Inter-Ac crown

With their last league title coming in 2012, when they shared the crown with Baldwin and Episcopal, the quartet came together prior to the start of the season to formulate a game plan to bond as a team off the court to aid success on the court.

“Team chemistry is huge,’ Collier said in a recent interview. “We made a huge effort to get together on weekends so we could get to know each other and bond closer as a team.’

What started as a promising season for the young flying Owls sprinkled with some veteran leadership quickly turned into one filled with its challenges for coach Wendy Short who was forced to shuffle her line-up due to injuries suffered by a number of players up and down the ladder at different points of the season.

Thanks to key senior leadership combined with her younger players stepping up Agnes Irwin overcame an early loss to league foe Penn Charter, to put them in a position to challenge for the Inter-Ac title.

“Tennis is often looked at as individual sport,’ said Wahl, a senior co-captain. “However it is very much a team sport. We try to convince the younger kids they are not only playing for themselves but they are playing for the team and their school.’

Heading into its match against Episcopal Academy, Short knew her team’s only hope of sharing the title would be to defeat the Churchwomen, who were undefeated in league play.


As daylight turned to darkness on October 14, it became evident the result of the match was not going to be decided. When play was called due to darkness, Irwin held a 3-2 lead with two matches left to play.

When play resumed two weeks later due to scheduling conflicts, the Owls needed to win only one of the remaining two matches to claim the victory and a share of the league title.

EA quickly evened things up as the third doubles pair of Eloise Nimoityn and Emily Beinkampen rallied from a 4-2 second set deficit to post a 7-5, 6-4 win over Emma Hill and Emma Collier to even the match at 3-3.

With both teams gathered around for the lone remaining match at 4th doubles, Irwin senior Kate Wahl helped keep freshman partner Sophie Yass calm and the pair came through with a 7-6 (10-8), 6-4 win to clinch the match and a share of the Inter-Ac crown with Episcopal.

“‘It was amazing,’ said Wahl. “This was my last year to help the team win an Inter-Ac title. Following our loss to Penn Charter we knew it would be tougher but we just stuck together.’

The Owls received a big lift on October 14 against Episcopal when junior Camille Smukler rallied from a 3-0 deficit in the third set to post a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Genevieve McCormick at number one singles.

“It felt really good,’ said Smukler, referring to her win. “Genevieve is a talented player so it was great motivation for the team. When I was down in the third set I knew I had to change things up because what I was doing wasn’t working. I just loosened up and started mixing things up.’

“To get a share of the Inter-Ac title is really rewarding with everything we overcame during the year. I think losing to Penn Charter brought us closer together and gave us more motivation.’

With four seniors departing, the Owls future still looks bright returning a core of its line-up including Smukler at No. 1 singles; sophomore Catie Burkhart at No. 2 singles and freshman Kayla Neary at No. 3 singles. The doubles line-up will return sophomore Callie Burkhart and freshman Lexi Short at No. 1 doubles and sophomore Alyssa Negron Samonte, who played No. 2 doubles and Yass, who played No. 4 doubles.

Short said, “This was a very special year for our team. We went into the season with a significant change at the top of our line up. I think, some thought that we would not be as competitive as we were in past years. We also had a lot of injuries to overcome throughout the season including losing our #1 player, Camille, for three weeks with a sprained ankle. However, through all the adversity, everyone stepped up and did their part to help preserve the season.’

“The leadership of the seniors played a significant role in our success. It is so important when your seniors and captains step up and take on a leadership role, because the younger players look to them for guidance. When they work hard in practice, play the right way and do the little things that are expected of them, the younger players notice and emulate them.”


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