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Senior Allie Champion helped the Valley Regional girls’ tennis team put together a historic season that included a 22-2 record and the program’s first appearance in a state final. Allie and her doubles partner Ada Ramos also finished with a record of 22-2 to go with a first-place finish in the Shoreline Conference Doubles Tournament. (Photo courtesy of Allie Champion )
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Allie Champion played a pivotal role as one half of a dominant doubles duo for the Valley Regional girls’ tennis team this season. Allie, a senior, joined forces with sophomore Ada Ramos at the No. 1 doubles position, and the tandem posted a record of 22-2 on the year. They also won the title in the Shoreline Conference Doubles Tournament.
This marked the second-straight year that Allie advanced to the Shoreline final, but it was the first time that she took home the crown. Allie says that claiming first place in the doubles bracket was the most rewarding moment of her career, especially since the tournament is such a grind.
“It was crazy. It was difficult, because the odds were not in our favor. It took a lot of work and mindfulness. We had to crack down and figure out what we were going to do point by point,” says Allie, who’s earned All-Shoreline Conference First Team honors in each of the past two seasons. “You really have to stay strong mentally. A lot of people crack under that pressure, but Ada and I stayed strong and focused. I’m happy we took it to the finish line. We worked so hard for it.”
After Shorelines, Allie and the Warriors competed in the Class S State Tournament and advanced all the way to the final. Although Valley took a loss to Weston, the team still made headlines by reaching the championship match for the first time in program history.
Allie and Ramos had a heavy hand in the Warriors’ success this year and earned the right to play at the State Open as a result. They started off by notching a victory versus a team from Conard and then lost to a formidable pairing from Amity. In the end, Allie feels glad that she got the opportunity to compete among Connecticut’s elite at the Open.
“They were really good players. We had never played against people like that before. We got three games off of them,” says Allie of the Amity team. “We tried adapting and standing back for the harder serves and using different strategies to get them off-guard. That was a good experience.”
Allie, a Deep River resident, has been playing tennis since she was six. Allie was spurred on to start the sport by her mother Kate Cotton, who used to coach for Valley. Allie predominantly played doubles matches during her four years with the Warriors. She prefers to work with a teammate on the court, because that dynamic plays to her strengths.
“I played one singles match my sophomore year. I won that singles match, but I like strategy and working with a partner. I can get into my own head sometimes when I play by myself,” Allie says. “I prefer to hit a really hard forehand. When I’m having a good day, I can hit a good forehand that the other team can’t get. I also like to get up to the net and volley. Ada has really great lobs, and I finish a lot of points with a hard forehand. I’ll run up to the net and finish them off.”
As one of Valley’s seniors, Allie supported her younger teammates as much as possible. Allie not only enjoys playing tennis, she also likes helping other people improve their game.
“I loved cheering for everyone That’s my main thing,” says Allie. “We had a couple of JV players who couldn’t really play that well yet. I would notice small things and give some advice after a match. I would tell people things to help, like keeping the racquet level with the body. I really liked helping them. That was really fun for me.”
Head Coach Sally Riggio took note of how driven Allie was to reach the top of the Shoreline Conference. Riggio could see the hunger in Allie’s eyes during each practice and every match. That type of attitude yielded plenty of victories for Allie and Ramos, as well as the Warriors, who also went 22-2 this year.
“Allie comes to practice and competes with her teammates as if they were genuine opponents. Her determination and dedication to be a Shoreline doubles champion was evident from day one this year,” Riggio says. “Allie has the ability to hyper-focus to ensure a successful outcome. We set a goal, and she worked very hard to achieve it. Allie has committed herself wholeheartedly. She and Ada have been very valuable to our team, and the team could always count on them winning their match.”
Later this year, Allie will attend Virginia Tech, where she’s planning on playing club tennis. Allie is also thinking about using what she’s learned from playing tennis at Valley Regional as a coach one day.
“I’ve taken to the role of helping people with tennis. Because I’ve been playing for so long, I know a lot, and it’s nice to give input,” says Allie. “I definitely want to continue my tennis career, and it would be great to coach.”
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