Hopedale Girls Tennis Team Continues To Excel

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Blue Raiders Capture Sectional Title
Photo credits: Steve Bassignani
Issue Date: 
July, 2018
Article Body: 

When Rosemary Talbot became the girls tennis coach at Hopedale High, she and her players had several goals in mind. They wanted to keep improving, they wanted to win the Dual Valley Conference title, go unbeaten and experience success in the Division 3 Tournament.
So far, the Blue Raiders are checking off most of the boxes.
The 25-year-old Talbot, who played first doubles at Hopedale before graduating in 2012, guided her squad to a 15-1 regular-season record in her first year on the job. The team won the DVC crown but was unable to finish the season undefeated, losing to Algonquin Regional, a Division 1 Central Mass. squad.
As far as tourney play goes, the Blue Raiders have continued to excel. They defeated Advanced Math & Science Academy and Grafton before blanking Bromfield, 5-0, for the Sectional championship. The triumph over Bromfield was Hopedale’s fourth straight Sectional crown. At Local Town Pages deadline, the Blue Raiders were preparing to face Lee in the State semifinals.
The key for success in the tourney is to maintain intensity and stay focused,’’ said Talbot, who works at Milford High as a behavioral assistant. “Our players are committed to the sport, they work hard, have a high tennis IQ and they’re athletic. Winning the Sectional was exciting, and for me it was great to win the Sectional as a first-year head coach.
The assets Talbot mentions certainly fit when the Blue Raiders’ first singles player is in the conversation. Aimee Figgins is a junior in her fifth varsity season. She finished the regular season with a 12-2 record.
“Aimee is an incredible player,’’ Talbot said. “She controls the pace and forces her opponents to adjust to her. An excellent server, she relies on power with her placements. She’s a strong baseline player who knows the sport, and her tennis IQ is very high. A captain, Aimee leads by example and is very encouraging.’’
Megan MeLellan is another captain and the senior had an exceptional regular season at second singles. She finished at 14-0. “Megan is a leader by example but she’s also very vocal,’’ Talbot said. “She knows the game and is consistent. She can hit hard but she also relies on finesse and is very accurate with her shots.’’
Freshman Katelynn Brunt and senior Brittany Dupuis alternated at third singles. Talbot liked what both brought to the table during the season.
“Katelynn is the fasted player I’ve seen going to the ball,’’ Talbot noted. “She plays the angles smartly and capitalizes on an opponent’s mistakes. She’s consistent, serves well and has good instincts. Brittany is a committed player who strives to improve daily. She’s got good technique and skills.’’
Senior captain Jennie Holland and sophomore Maddie LaPrade play first doubles and they compiled a record of 12-2 during the regular campaign.
“Jennie is our other captain and she’s very creative in promoting team chemistry,’’ Talbot said. “Her net game is aggressive and she’s got an incredible serve. She hits with power and complements Maddie very well. Maddie also has a strong serve and hits with power. Her baseline game is solid and she, too, is aggressive at the net. Both girls communicate well and adjust quickly.’’
Junior Mikayla Evans and senior Rachel Szemethy were undefeated at second doubles, compiling a record of 13-0.
“Mikayla is consistent and a good leader,’’ Talbot said. “A terrific motivator, she hits with power and her net game is strong. Rachel is a finesse player who’s capable at the baseline. She’s consistent, knows how to play the angles, communicates effectively and has a good serve.’’
Figgins, McLellan and Brunt all won their singles matches in the Sectional final and the doubles teams of Holland and LaPrade and Evans and Szemethy also were victorious against Bromfield.
Talbot is no stranger to Hopedale athletics. She played tennis and field hockey and ran track during her interscholastic days and later was a four-year player in field hockey at Framingham State. Before taking the coaching reins in tennis, she was a Blue Raiders’ assistant coach in field hockey and indoor track.
The Whitinsville native’s links to Hopedale obviously helped her in her first year as a head coach. “I played three years of tennis at Hopedale and was an assistant coach in two sports,’’ she said. “I knew many of my players just from being an assistant coach earlier. I feel like I never left the school and that made my first year of varsity coaching a comfortable experience.’’
Three starters from this year’s team will graduate and there’ll be some vacancies next year. Talbot, however, isn’t worried. “We have younger players who’ll fill in,’’ she said. “Players here have the skills and technique and they’re committed to the sport.’’
And, as long as Rosemary Talbot’s players display a positive attitude, a willingness to improve, a coachable nature and a desire to give 100 percent, it’s safe to say that Hopedale’s girls tennis team will continue to be a force.