Camaraderie leads girls’ tennis to first win of the season over Lick Wilmerding

Sophomore+Mila+Mulready%2C+Burlingame%E2%80%99s+No.+1+singles+player%2C+returns+the+ball+on+her+way+to+a+6-0%2C+6-1+victory+in+the+first+match+of+the+season.+

Elise Spenner

Sophomore Mila Mulready, Burlingame’s No. 1 singles player, returns the ball on her way to a 6-0, 6-1 victory in the first match of the season.

Elise Spenner, Copy Editor

Burlingame’s girls’ tennis team swiftly conquered the junior varsity and varsity teams from Lick Wilmerding High School on Aug. 31, winning all 14 singles and doubles matches. 

The match signaled both a strong season ahead for the girls’ team and a return to pre-COVID-19 energy: If you didn’t spot the masked faces or the bottle of hand sanitizer perched on top of the 10-gallon Igloo water cooler, you would be forgiven for forgetting that Burlingame girls’ opening tennis match on Tuesday took place during a global pandemic.

Throughout the afternoon, parents, grandparents, relatives and teammates crowded the bleachers. Boxes of Village Host pizza ordered by the opposing team awaited resting players, while Burlingame teammates drank boba in the stands, cheering matches on all eight courts.

“We [had] a big showing today. I don’t think we are approaching the 10,000 spectator limit, but it’s a good day,” head coach Bill Smith said at the match. “Half of them [had] their backs to the tennis, but that’s part of why you play a sport, anyway.”

The No. 1 singles player, Mila Mulready, won her match in straight sets with scores of 6-0 and 6-1. Mulready, a sophomore who frequently competes on the junior circuit, came out firing, taking the first six games in quick succession. 

“I feel like the girl I played didn’t really have any pace, so I was struggling because I had to make my own pace,” Mulready said. “Her balls had a lot of topspin, and they were going really slow. I definitely need to work on playing people that push the ball like that.”

Aside from her play, Mulready is grateful to be part of the tennis community at Burlingame. On the junior circuit, Mulready does not have teammates, and the court lacks the raucous high school cheers of “You got this!” or “Nice, Mila!” that help to motivate her.

“It’s so great to have teammates to support you, and I want to be there for them during their matches,” Mulready said. “I love the team environment. I like being a team player.”

Freshman Hailey Miller, who plays doubles, already feels the encouragement of her teammates. 

“I love [the team],” Miller said. “I’m excited to play with my doubles partner and to meet lots of new friends.”

While Miller’s set does not count in the final score from the match — only the first four singles and three doubles do — that does not  stop Miller from giving her all. 

As Coach Smith put it, it’s less about whether your score ends up on the official paper and more about representing your team on the court and wearing the panther logo on your shirt.

On the doubles courts, the team camaraderie was clear in Tuesday’s matches. Miller and her partner, Ella Wang, who won their match 6-0, emphasized the importance of their close bond. The same is true for sophomore doubles partners Lily Grenier and Isabella Lazarov. 

“When you have somebody you know well, like me and Isabella, [you] are easily able to communicate,” Grenier said. “If the ball somehow goes by my amazing tennis volleys, she’s always there to get it.”

That level of cooperation and support is present at the team level as well. Mulready has played tennis competitively since she was seven. Grenier is a softball player who likes to stay active and Miller is a freshman eager to engage with the school. They might come to the game from different places, but on the court and in the stands, they are all working toward the same goal. 

“With high school tennis, I feel like it’s really bringing a team aspect into it,” Mulready said. “I really liked that about it. It’s one of the reasons I do it.”