After years of steady improvement, Holliston High’s varsity boy’s tennis team is on pace to make the statewide MIAA championship for the first time in recent history. After seven games in the past few weeks, their record stands at 4-3.
To qualify for the tournament, a team must have a .500 record, a feat that is more difficult than it may appear due to Holliston’s proximity to towns with consistently strong tennis programs such as Dover-Sherborn and Medway. There are 14 games in the regular season, where each of the eight teams plays every other team twice, once at home and once away.
The annual tournament, held in Martha’s Vineyard, features the best teams from around the state. Holliston hasn’t won a TVL title since 1997.
Mrs. Murphy, who has coached the team for five years, thinks they have a real shot at getting there this season.
”I definitely think the boys have the ability and the drive to make it to the tournament this year. I've got a great group of players on this team and they've worked hard this season. At this point, I think they're on track.” she said.
High School tennis matches are scored from five individual sets, where whichever team wins the majority of those sets is the victor. Holliston won its last match against Medway on Monday 4-1 and handily beat Norton by the same margin in the previous week.
“I think overall we feel really solid as a team, and if we continue this pattern we’re looking good to make it to the final tournament. We have momentum,” said Wesley Knapp, a senior at the school.
Knapp has been playing tennis for all four years of his High School career. So far this season, he’s played in six sets, winning four and losing two.
“We have a lot going for us as a team, but one thing we have to worry about is lack of experience in the postseason,” Knapp said. “We’ve never made it very far before, so going forward will be something new for us.”
Coach Murphy agrees that inexperience could be a problem down the road.
“While most of the starters this year played last year, two of them were on JV, one was an exhibition player on Varsity, and one played doubles on Varsity and now plays singles. We've had to play around with positions and partners, but I think the boys are adjusting well.”
Fortunately, the team has multiple strengths to make up for the shortcomings of inexperience. These include things as simple as a tall average height and as nuanced as increased consistency in ball placement and shot selection.
But as always, the mental factor is most important.
“This year, more than any year that I've been coaching, I have a team that wants to win and wants to play in the tournament. Their drive is what makes them win third sets and tie-breakers. These boys don't give up, and although our record isn't perfect, they've played hard for every point in every match. As a coach, that makes me proud,” said Murphy.
The final tournament is set to begin on June 11th. Hopefully Holliston will have earned a place in it.