Girls’ tennis rises to occasion in tight match against Aragon

Head+coach+Bill+Smith+offered+advice+to+senior+Ella+Rafferty+during+her+No.+1+singles+match+against+Varsha+Jawadi%2C+Aragon%E2%80%99s+top+player.

Elise Spenner

Head coach Bill Smith offered advice to senior Ella Rafferty during her No. 1 singles match against Varsha Jawadi, Aragon’s top player.

Elise Spenner, Managing Editor

Despite missing two of their top-10 players, the girls’ tennis team eked out a 4-3 victory over Aragon High School on Monday afternoon to solidify a third place finish in the Peninsula Athletic League (PAL) Bay Division.

The Panthers sailed to victory in all three doubles matches, but needed a singles win to seal the deal. Without No. 1 singles player and reigning league champion junior Mila Mulready, Burlingame moved the bulk of their roster up the ladder. Senior Michelle Moshkovoy, who moved from No. 4 to No. 3 singles, swept her last eight games against Aragon junior Lian Wang to win 6-4, 6-0. 

“[Moshkovoy] was hitting the ball at a good three-quarter speed,” head coach Bill Smith said. “She did really well. She picked a speed and a pace that she could carry through the whole match and did a really good job.” 

The odds were stacked against Burlingame in their other singles matches. Senior Ella Rafferty moved into No. 1 singles and fought valiantly against Aragon junior Varsha Jawadi, who competes on the junior circuit with Mulready. However, Rafferty wasn’t able to match Jawadi’s consistency in longer baseline battles. 

“I knew it was going to be a really tough match,” Rafferty said. “I’m glad I got to play someone as highly ranked as her. I mean, I play some really good players. Not too many are as good as her.”

Instead, Burlingame relied heavily on their doubles players. Freshmen Samantha Tom and Evelyn Du moved up a spot to No. 2 doubles and triumphed 6-1, 6-2, extending their season-long undefeated streak.

“We moved the freshmen up to second doubles. They will probably stay there for the rest of the season,” Smith said. “That will put a strong team that’s been playing two down in three. So we’ll maintain what we’ve been doing.”

For the most part, what they’ve been doing is winning. The team has lost just three matches this season, swept Half Moon Bay High School 7-0 on Tuesday and should beat Hillsdale High School comfortably on Thursday. 

According to the players, their recent success is attributed to a new tradition: a pre-game motivational rap from Smith, with steady beatboxing from Moshkovoy and junior Lily Grenier. 

“I was like ‘C’mon coach, drop us a beat,’” Grenier said. “He just started dropping a beat, and it was actually really good. And so now we make him do it before every match, and we’ve only lost one since we started doing it.”

The Aragon matchup was the start of a long week for the Panthers, who will head to Hillsdale on Thursday and play two matches a day at the Golden State Tennis Classic on Friday and Saturday. 

“What we’re looking for is: Can we improve enough to beat [second place] Carlmont and get an automatic [Central Coast Section] berth? That’s the immediate goal,” Smith said. 

Unfortunately, the Classic coincides with a sectional tournament run by the United States Tennis Association, and the Panthers will miss four of their top-10 players: Mulready, Rafferty, senior Rorie Stone and senior Caitlin Stone. But if Monday’s game is any indication, the team will rise to the occasion, led by the depth and commitment of players further down the ladder.

“I’d say everyone stepped up a lot to cover each other because life gets in the way,” Grenier said. “Sometimes people can’t come, and so whenever we have absences, even after a weekend of not playing, everyone just steps up.”