The task at hand just got a little more difficult for the girls' tennis team.
Following a successful season with plenty of improvement and progress, the team enters the Div. 3 North Sectionals minus one of its top players.
Senior Bridie Thaggard, the No. 2 singles players for the Generals, has a prior commitment related to this weekend’s graduation and won’t be able to play in the match.
“(Bridie) doesn’t want to miss (this match) and it could be the last match of her high school career,” said coach Claudia Hawkes. “The timing isn’t great but Saturday seems to be best (time for the match). If the match was during the week it could have been tough for all our seniors, so we would’ve been missing three (players).”
Hamilton-Wenham, seeded No. 9, plays Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Lowell Catholic, the No. 8 seed at 11-7. The match is at Callery Park (Stevens and B streets).
Hawkes and the team knows it is a better team with Thaggard but she feels the improvements the entire team has made since last year’s 5-0 tournament loss to Bedford will show with whoever takes the court. The Generals only lost one player from that squad.
“I think if we had Bridie play we’d be in better shape. It’s definitely going to be harder on the team (without her),” said Hawks, whose team finished 8-6.
“We’ve played so many matches since (last year’s first round loss). Everyone has improved quite a bit over the season since practice started in March.”
Leading the way for the Generals is Charlotte Horton, a junior playing No. 1 singles. While her 6-7 record isn’t eye-popping, she did play in the difficult Cape Ann League and was in most of her matches.
Freshmen Caroline Gribbell, who battled injuries early in the season, finished with a 6-4 mark at No. 3 singles.
It's most likely that at least one of the doubles teams will be broken up with the absence of Thaggard. The duos of seniors Katherine Heffernan and Christina Belazos, and sophomores Allie Whelan and Caroline Flores all had winning records while playing doubles and should have a seamless transition with a new partner. Belazos played singles during the season.
Sophomores Abbie Loomis and Colleen Ford both filled in at doubles when a teammate was absent during the season.
Other than being forced to juggle her lineup, Hawkes said she doesn’t envision any changes in the team’s strategy.
“The girls know they have to be in top form and on top of their games,” Hawkes said. “We will do same strategy as always. The last player to get the ball over the net usually gets point. I can’t (now) tell them to be more aggressive than before.”
Down a singles player and playing on the road will make the task at hand a little harder, but Hawkes feels good nonetheless.
“It will be hard for them but I hope they will rise to challenge. I hope they play as well as they can and when they come off court they will say they played as hard as they could.”