The Weston girls tennis team lost to eventual champion and top-seeded Manchester Essex in the quarterfinals of the Division 3 North bracket, but that loss didn’t take away from a very successful campaign.
The ninth-seeded Wildcats lined up against eighth-seeded North Reading in the first round and won 3-2. Coach Dyanne Sainato noted that North Reading’s coach had some positive words for Weston’s team.
“Their coach said, ‘You should be going to the finals, you’re the only other good team besides Manchester Essex,’” Sainato said.
And then Manchester’s coach told Sainato that her team was the best competition they had seen all season despite a 5-0 loss for Weston.
So sometimes it really is just the luck of the draw, but Weston finished with a winning record for the first time in eight years at 10-8, and individually the team played very well.
Junior Livvy Lathrop had another dominant season at first singles against tough competition, garnering Dual County League All-Star status, and senior Leyla Hotamisligil along with freshman Jackie Liu reached a level at first doubles that Sainato hasn’t seen in her time at Weston.
“They ended up with All-Star status, which I have not had for a doubles team in my 11 years of coaching,” Sainato said. “They deserved it and played with great aggression and solid skill all season long.”
Liu had some previous USTA experience, but Hotamisligil was able to mentor her as a senior.
Junior Katerina Cummings anchored second singles but freshman Natalia Chaoul filled in for six matches during the season and did so admirably, going 5-1.
“Natalia had to move around a lot in the lineup which she was amazing with,” Sainato said. “She’s a freshman but she seemed like a senior with her maturity level.”
Chaoul would have loved to play singles the whole season, but understood that her talent would be more useful at doubles, where she played several times with junior Grace Callahan and won several crucial third points.
Sainato was able to play Chaoul and Hotamisligil at first doubles in the postseason matches because her lineup was more solidified at that point.
“Her and Leyla were a powerful combination and it was also nice to have Jackie play second doubles with someone else because that will probably be where she ends up in her career at Weston,” Sainato said.
A pleasant surprise this season for the Wildcats was sophomore Alex Carpenter’s emergence in the lineup.
“She really improved so much that she ended up being in the postseason lineup,” Sainato said.
Other players that contributed to Weston’s success were junior Michele Joseph at third singles, junior Tessa Lank and junior Maggie Wallis, along with senior captains Barbara Bebis and Lily Lotfi.
Sainato was able to move many athletes around this year because the skill level made it possible.
“Usually I don’t have that kind of comfort as a coach,” she said. “It was really nice this season.”
That flexibility was most on display in a match against Acton-Boxborough when a handful of Weston’s players had to take AP exams. Sainato put Liu at first singles, Callahan at second and Bebis at third singles.
“Never a singles lineup I would have but the three of them went out there and gave everything they had,” Sainato said. “I could not have been more proud.”
Sainato pointed to a greatly bonded team under the leadership of captains Hotamisligil, Lotfi and Bebis.
Hotamisligil won the Andrew Pastor Memorial Award in addition to her DCL All-Star award, Bebis won the Robert Chruz DCL sportsmanship award, and Lotfi won the MIAA sportsmanship award.
The growth shown by the team was evident in victories over Division 1 opponents Lincoln-Sudbury and Westford and 3-2 losses to Newton South and Concord-Carlisle, teams that usually take down Weston 5-0.
In the individual tournament, Hotamisligil went four rounds, Chaoul went three, and at doubles, Joseph and Liu went two rounds.
“A lot of little surprises I hadn’t counted on,” Sainato said. “I knew it was going to be a really skilled team, but I was impressed with the finish, the 10-8 record and the way we handled postseason.”
Looking to next year, Sainato will lose her three captains and Chaoul, who is moving away.
As a result, the majority of Weston’s roster will be seniors, with Carpenter being the only junior and Liu the only sophomore as of now.
Lathrop, Joseph and Callahan were picked to be next year’s captains.
“[They] will be wonderful leaders along with support from Maggie, Tessa and Kat,” Sainato said. “It will be a nice core of seniors.”
Of course, Sainato is shooting for the stars next year with her senior-laden lineup.
“The goal next year will be to go all the way and win states,” she said. “I can’t imagine anyone being more deserving than Livvy and all the girls who have played four years.”