While it’s certainly a notable feat to play for a state title twice in three seasons like the Guilford girls’ tennis team did this spring, what was also impressive about the Indians was the fiery spirit they used to attack their competition on the court throughout the 2017 season.
After netting 13 wins for the regular season and reaching semifinals of the SCC Tournament, Guilford earned the No. 12 seed in the Class M State Tournament—the same tournament in which they reached their first state final two years ago and then made the semifinal round last spring. After defeating Suffield (6-1) and North Haven (4-3) to open the draw, Guilford dispatched Woodstock Academy (7-0) and Farmington (6-1) to get back to the championship match for a showdown against No. 2 seed and SCC champion Hand. The Class M final took place on June 1 at Westbrook, where Hand took the title with a 5-2 victory. The Indians were trailing 3-2 as the No. 2 and 3 doubles matches went to decisive third sets, and Hand came away with wins in both contests to clinch the championship. Head Coach Chris Marra said that his team’s gritty performance in the final served as a microcosm of what the Indians were all about this season.
“We did a great job this year. We played tough and competitively against all the teams we faced this year. We did a great job of getting to the finals and were competitive with the Lauralton Halls, Hands, and Amitys,” said Coach Marra, whose squad finished with an overall record of 18-8. “I look at it from a standpoint of where we were two years ago in making the state final and losing to Lauralton, and then now this year we had a very close match with Hand. We also had a comfortable run through states. It showed me that the girls had goals they aspired towards.”
Two years ago, Guilford lost a 6-1 decision against Lauralton Hall in its inaugural state final appearance. The fact that his team was just a couple bounces of the ball away from climbing to the top this year left a lasting impression on Coach Marra.
“Any time you get to a state final, it’s special for the whole team. We got to the state finals this year, and it was both competitive and exciting,” he said. “We had points where they could’ve gone one way or the other, and simply being in a situation like that is great for everyone.”
Guilford’s lone senior was its No. 1 singles player, Claire Dinauer, who notched All-SCC Division I honors after posting a record of 18-10 for the season. Dinauer also qualified for the State Open Championship, as did the Indians’ No. 2 doubles team of junior captain Sam Stofflet and sophomore partner Emily Dietzko. Whether it was the way they approached their matches or interacted with their teammates, Coach Marra said that both captains proved ideal leader for the Indians.
“Claire is a great leader and motivator. We will miss her. She led by example and put everything she had on the court. The younger girls looked up to her and wanted to play like her,” Marra said. “Sam is organized and super friendly. She brings so much to the table with her motivation and making the other girls feel like they are a part of something.”
Despite losing Dinauer to graduation, the Indians will still return several core members of their lineup who played pivotal roles in their ride to the state final. Among next year’s key returnees will be Faren Roth, who went 25-4 playing No. 2 singles as a junior; No. 3 singles player Acadia Hall, who won Guilford’s Most Improved Player Award in her junior season; along with Emma Rand (who was a junior), Allie Stankewich (sophomore), and Morgan Mancuso (freshman), who all shared the No. 4 solo slot.
In terms of doubles, the Indians’ No. 1 tandem of junior siblings Charlotte Babbin and Molly Babbin went 22-6 in a campaign that saw them make All-SCC, as well as All-State by virtue of reaching the State Open semifinals. Additionally, Guilford’s No. 3 doubles team of Elaina Griffiths and Annabelle Wang will back next season. Griffiths was a junior, while Wang was a sophomore this year.
“We only lose Claire, but it’s always a bummer to lose your No. 1 singles player. Yet it’s pretty awesome to have all the other girls coming back,” Coach Marra said. “We had so many really good players this year that contributed in so many different ways. It shows how much of a team effort this season really was.”
From the Sidelines
Chris Marra wrapped up his sixth season as the Guilford girls’ tennis team’s head coach this year.
Guilford’s 13 regular season wins came against Sacred Heart Academy (6-1), Branford (6-1), Law (4-0), Shelton (5-2), Sheehan (6-1), Waterford (5-2), Lauralton Hall (4-3), Cheshire (7-0), North Haven (5-2), East Lyme (5-2), Mercy (6-1), Nonnewaug (4-3), and Hamden (6-1).
In the SCC Tournament, the Indians blanked Sacred Heart Academy 7-0 in a quarterfinal contest before taking a 5-2 loss versus Amity in the semis.