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Championship Reflections: Woodstock Girls Tennis

  • Woodstock's assistant coach Kimbel Biele congratulates Olivia Marsicovetere after she and her partner Lydia Howe won their doubles bout during Montpelier at Woodstock girls tennis on Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Woodstock, Vt. Woodstock won, 4-3. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock's Grace Frazier during Montpelier at Woodstock girls tennis on Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Woodstock, Vt. Woodstock won, 4-3. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock girls tennis coach Tom Hopewell and player Momo Biele pose for a photo after winning their championship match-up against Montpelier on Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Woodstock, Vt. Woodstock won, 4-3. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Woodstock's Kenzie Biele reacts after winning her singles championship match-up against during Montpelier at Woodstock girls tennis on Thursday, June 8, 2017, in Woodstock, Vt. Woodstock won, 4-3. (Valley News - Jovelle Tamayo) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Saturday, June 24, 2017

Breaking a seven-year hex against a playoff rival on the biggest stage elicits lots of emotions — redemption, relief and exaltation to name a few.

For 19th-year Woodstock Union High girls tennis coach Tom Hopewell, one feeling stood out above the rest.

“Pride,” Hopewell said while reflecting on the Wasps’ 4-3 ousting of Montpelier in the VPA Division II title game. “To watch these girls work so hard all season and then watch our goal come to fruition was an amazing feeling.”

Woodstock had fallen to the Solons in the semifinals each of the last seven years but wouldn’t be denied on June 8 to capture its first title since 2000.

Sophomore twins Momo and Kenzie Biele dug out third-set tiebreakers to win their singles matches, and junior stalwart Grace Frazier took care of her No. 2 singles match to give the Wasps a 3-2 lead with a pair of matches ongoing.

With No. 6 singles player Chloe Noble engaged in a tight battle she’d eventually lose in a third-set tiebreaker, it came down to freshmen Lydia Howe and Olivia Marsicovetere at No. 2 doubles. The rookie tandem rallied for an 8-6 win in the first set, giving Hopewell confidence based on their body language and compete level.

Howe and Marsicovetere did not disappoint, winning 6-2 in the second set to clinch the championship.

“Just the way they finished the last couple points (of the first set), and the way they were moving their feet, I knew they were poised to win that match,” Hopewell said. “They were supremely confident.”

Howe and Marsicovetere were two of the only question marks entering the season for Woodstock, which had plenty returning from last year’s 15-2 semifinalist.

With 18 athletes trying out and only nine making Hopewell’s varsity squad, the two freshmen not only made varsity, but contributed from the get-go to complement experienced No. 1 doubles partners Katey MacMaster and Emily Haynes.

“They hadn’t even played tennis since they were little kids, but just watching their hustle and seeing their attitudes on the first day of tryouts, I thought, ‘Here we go,’ ” Hopewell said. “The only thing they were lacking was great tennis skills, but they were very open to practicing hard to get them down.”

The season was nothing short of dominant for the Wasps, who beat 11 opponents, 7-0, and won 28 individual matches in straight sets. Momo Biele, Frazier and Sarah Findeisen all received first-team all-Marble Valley League honors for the Wasps, while Kenzie Biele received honorable mention.

After shutting out Brattleboro in the season opener, Woodstock won at Division I Stowe on April 11, 4-3, though the celebration was tempered by losses from the talented Biele sisters. “They were two good matches against two very good Stowe players, but I think it kind of woke everybody up a little bit,” Hopewell said.

Momo Biele responded with a 6-2, 1-6, 10-7 win over Burr & Burton ace Cecelia Liu during a 6-1 Woodstock win over the Marble Valley League rival Bulldogs, and the Wasps cruised past Otter Valley before a 4-3 home loss to D-I Mount Anthony in late April.

“The fact that came in our own backyard, on our home court, made it sting a little more,” Hopewell said. “That got us excited and made us refocus.”

Woodstock wouldn’t lose again, easily beating Bellows Falls and Brattleboro before a 5-2 victory over Burr & Burton that was its last serious challenge until the postseason. The Wasps swept their last eight opponents by 7-0 counts.

“The way we stayed competitive during that stretch was at our practices,” Hopewell said. “We had some great challenge matches, some awesome tennis. They had a tremendous work ethic.”

Scheduled quarterfinal opponent Lake Region failed to show up on June 1, giving Woodstock another reason for a vigorous practice prior to taking on No. 4 Harwood in the semis. Woodstock handled the Highlanders, 6-1, to set up a showdown with — who else? — Montpelier in the final.

“The girls were well-aware of the history,” Hopewell said. “We didn’t get ahead of ourselves, but revenge was definitely in order.”

Jared Pendak can be reached at jpendak@vnews.com or 603-727-3225.