Peterson’s Sophomore Performance Helps the Grizzlies Make History
The Guilford girls’ tennis team featured a variety of reliable players this season, and sophomore Molly Peterson proved as reliable as anyone on the Grizzlies’ roster. Molly was a mainstay in Guilford’s lineup as its primary No. 4 singles player and helped the team win its first state championship in program history.
Molly notched 20 victories for a Grizzlies’ club that went 21-6 this year. Guilford made history when the team defeated Newington in the final of the Class L State Tournament, bolstered by a 6-0, 6-1 win from Molly at No. 4 singles. Molly felt overjoyed to take the state title and share in that achievement with her teammates.
“Watching the final match finish and knowing we won the State Tournament, we had videos of us jumping up and down and screaming and running on to the court and hugging the last doubles match that was out. It was just really special moments like that,” says Molly. “We couldn’t stop saying, ‘Yeah, we’re state champs, finally,’”
Molly’s journey to claiming state gold with the Grizzlies has been filled with precious memories. Molly started playing tennis at a young age, drawing inspiration from her parents. Molly has also been playing field hockey since middle school and competes for the high school team in the fall.
Molly played tennis for fun while growing up, but started taking the sport more seriously during her freshman year at Guilford. Molly quickly learned the fundamentals that come with being a part of an organized tennis squad.
“I’ve played tennis for years now, but it really only started getting serious since I’ve been a part of the team. We’ve all had a common goal. We were always just improving with each other,” Molly says. “Being a part of that team unit together is definitely different than anything I’ve ever done before, but it’s really special to me and it really improved my love for tennis in a way that hadn’t been there before.”
Molly’s success in her first two seasons with the Grizzlies hasn’t come easily. Not only did Molly have to improve her physical skills on the court, she also had to continually battle through the tough test of building confidence. However, Molly feels that playing with confidence is something she greatly improved upon during the course of the 2022 campaign.
“Sometimes I can get really in my head during my matches, and I tend to be very anxious before them. Definitely this season, I feel like I got a lot more confident playing and even just like going up to matches,” says Molly. “I was a lot more relaxed and happy to play, instead of really nervous. I’m glad I made strides in that direction.”
One match that stood out for Molly this year was Guilford’s contest against North Haven early in the season. Molly found herself down after the first set, but rallied to win the matchup by the score of 2-6, 6-1, 6-2. Molly’s comeback spurred the Grizzlies to a 4-3 victory that was satisfying for everyone on the team.
“I was down, and I was really nervous, because I never had to play that tough of a match before. My game is really mental, so having that set against me, I was really nervous,” Molly says. “That was really special for me, and also it was really special for everyone else, because just last year we lost to North Haven, and that was what kicked us out of the State Tournament. I was really happy that I contributed to that, and I was really proud of myself for how I played that way.”
Molly’s big win paved the way to a stellar sophomore season this spring. Molly finished the year with a record of 20-2 with her only two losses coming versus Amity. Head Coach Chris Marra says that Molly’s consistency on the singles court was a key component of Guilford’s state championship run.
“One of the great things about Molly is that she’s so consistent with her performance. She just does a great job of being reliable. In two seasons, she’s only lost to one player,” says Marra. “It’s hard for me to articulate how she could do better, because she really is just so strong at what she does.”
Molly’s strategy is to play more patiently than aggressively in her matches. Molly believes that every point will come with time and that it’s not worth the risk to leap out of your steps. As she tries to limit her mistakes, Molly gains strength from the collective performance of her teammates.
“Even on the courts, when I look over and see everyone else giving their all for their game, that’s a really big motivation,” Molly says. “Even after we played a match and everyone’s happy and singing on the bus ride home, it just gives me so much strength to keep going and getting through our matches, because you’re not just winning for yourself—you’re winning for everybody.”
Molly will once again be relied upon as an integral member of Guilford’s singles lineup as a junior next year. The success that Molly and her team saw this season gives her belief that more good things are in store for the Grizzlies.
“Anything is possible if you really, really try. Every match brought us closer to that,” says Molly. “It was just really inspirational this whole season, and I have a strong belief now that I didn’t before that we could really do anything.”