AMSA, Shrewsbury tennis teams end seasons with state championship matchups

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By Kevin Stone, Contributing Writer

 A Shrewsbury girls tennis player waits as a teammate makes a serve during a match earlier this spring.
Shrewsbury High School Vs. Algonquin Regional High School Girls Varsity Tennis match hosted at Shrewsbury on May 14, 2021. Jenna Oliveri and Flora Po

REGION – For two local girls’ tennis teams, the end to the spring season that almost never happened was unforgettable, win or lose.

The Advanced Math and Science Academy girls team took home its school’s first ever team state title with a 4-1 victory over Manchester Essex in the Division III state championship match. That finished off a perfect 19-0 season. 

Meanwhile, first-year Shrewsbury head coach Alesia Raczelowski watched as her team reached the Division I state title match before being swept by the now three-time defending champions, Acton-Boxborough. The Colonials finished their season with an 11-5 record.

For AMSA head coach David Gordon, who has been the coach since the program’s inception just four years ago, it was worth all the uncertainty and struggles during the pandemic to watch his squad celebrate such a big accomplishment.

“The girls have been great teammates to each other from March 2020 on,” he said. 

“This is a very competitive group of ladies as well,” he continued. “They took every opportunity to improve during the extended off-season and showed up this spring fit and ready to grind.  They earned everything they got this season.”

He further credited AMSA’s “outstanding and dedicated” Athletic Director, Pete Jones.

For AMSA’s top singles player, senior Kirstin Hailey, words almost couldn’t describe what the end result meant to her.

“I had hopes that the season would end with a state title, but I never imagined it would ever happen,” she admitted. “It was so surreal to hold that trophy with my team after all of our hard work and I’m happy to have ended my high school tennis career with the win.” 

“It took a lot of sacrifice and hard work from every member of the team to get where we did,” she said. “I’m so proud of everyone for pushing themselves and investing so much time and energy for practices and matches almost every day.”

Beyond making history, AMSA is celebrating an accolade that may boost future recruiting efforts.

“AMSA is a great school with great athletics, so it really is an honor to be the first team in AMSA history to win a state championship,” Gordon said. “The seniors have been here since the start of the program, so that makes this accomplishment even more special.”

“I think our program has established a strong identity at this point,” he continued. “We bring it in and support each other, work hard, play hard, and make sure to have a lot of laughs and fun in the process.  Hopefully, people see that at school, and want to be a part of it and support us.  I would like to think that, outside of AMSA, we are viewed as a team that is spirited and always plays hard and fair.”

In Shrewsbury, Alesia Raczelowski faced plenty of uncertainty coming into a new situation while also still navigating a pandemic. She said she was helped, though, by a squad that quickly bought into her coaching. 

“They were just so coachable,” Raczeloswki said following the D1 state title loss.

The match originally was set to take place at Acton-Boxborough itself. But, with the heat beating down on the court, the matchup was moved indoors to Westfit in Westford.

Grace Gerber, Anushka Mukhopadhyay and Aanya Gupton made up the first three singles in the lineup, while Jenna Oliveri and Fiora Pu made up the first doubles team. Riddhi Gulati and Trisha Nikte comprised the second doubles team.

Even though her team got swept, Raczeloswki said her squad is just getting started after their under-the-radar run to the title match.

“For them to kind of embrace me right when I came in and be so willing to learn was so great,” she said. “We’re a young team and we plan on being back, but just how they handled the season and then how they handled this crazy morning of traveling, they deserve all the credit in the world.”

 

Sports – Community Advocate