High school tennis preview 2024: Frontier boys looking to build on strong season

Greenfield's Izzy Semonelli returns a volley during a No. 1 singles match against Mohawk Trail at the Davis Street Courts last spring.

Greenfield's Izzy Semonelli returns a volley during a No. 1 singles match against Mohawk Trail at the Davis Street Courts last spring. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Frontier's Caiden Manning returns a volley during a No. 2 singles match against Turners' Noah Kolodziej last spring in Turners Falls.

Frontier's Caiden Manning returns a volley during a No. 2 singles match against Turners' Noah Kolodziej last spring in Turners Falls. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

Turners Falls’ Olivia Wolbach returns a volley in Montague last spring.

Turners Falls’ Olivia Wolbach returns a volley in Montague last spring. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL Franz

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 04-05-2024 5:14 PM

Could this be the year a Recorder area tennis team makes it past the MIAA Round of 32? 

In the two years since the MIAA switched to a statewide format, area tennis teams have done well qualifying for states, but have struggled when getting there. 

In 2022 the Frontier boys reached the Div. 4 tournament as the No. 23 seed, but fell to Lee in the Round of 32. On the girls side Mohawk Trail knocked off Frontier in the preliminary round of the Div. 4 tournament, but lost to eventual state champion Hamilton-Wenham in the Round of 32. Greenfield, the No. 24 seed, didn't make it past Lee in the Round of 32. 

It was a similar story last spring. The Redhawk boys once again reached the state tournament, but lost to Quaboag in the preliminary round. In the Div. 4 girls tournament, Greenfield, Mohawk Trail and Frontier all qualified, but none made it past the preliminary round. 

Will this be the year one of those squads breaks through? One team gearing up for a run is the Frontier boys, with new coach Stephen Bryant coming over from Mount Greylock. Bryant was named the Western Mass. Boys Tennis Coach of the Year in 2015 and looks to bring a fresh perspective to the Redhawks.

“My move from Mount Greylock, where I accumulated seven years of coaching experience, to take the helm at Frontier marks a new chapter not just for me but for the team as well,” Bryant said. “This transition brings fresh perspectives and methodologies to our training and strategy, aiming to invigorate the team’s dynamics and approach to the game.”

Bryant is hoping to cultivate a winning culture, using a different training regimen to get the players ready to go. 

“As we embark on this journey together, our first milestone will be to foster a team culture that balances competitiveness with supportive, encouraging players to excel both individually and as a unit,” Bryant said. “We’re implementing a tailored training regimen that hones our strengths and addresses our weaknesses, setting the stage for measurable improvements in performance.

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After winning the Tri-County North League championship a season ago, Bryant said the goal is to make it back-to-back this spring. 

“A key objective for the season is to secure a league championship, signifying not just a triumph in terms of trophies but a milestone in the team’s development and cohesion,” Bryant said. “Additionally, aiming for an undefeated streak in our league represents not only our competitive goals but also our commitment to excellence and team unity. This season offers an opportunity to blend past insights with new challenges, aiming to create a memorable and successful year for the team.” 

Here’s a look at how each team is shaping up going into the season: 

Girls teams

Frontier

GIRLS COACH: Andrew Varnon

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 14-4

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D4 prelims

GIRLS ROSTER: Jimin Ahn, Carrigan Caban Gleason, Brooke Charest, Makayla Craig, Esther Ehle, Kayla Fagan, Hailey Fernandez, Ryleigh Hayes-Golding, Bailey Martin, Araceli McCoy, Stella Porth, Eloise Powers, Thanushi Ratnatunge, Hashini Ratnatunge, Aylen Shaw, Isabella Sibley, Aimee Talbott, Eleanor Wade

OUTLOOK: Varnon, who previously coached the Greenfield boys tennis team, takes over a Redhawk squad that reached the state tournament each of the past two years.

The majority of last year’s tournament team has graduated, with just six players returning. Of the 18 players on Frontier’s roster, 14 are middle schoolers.

Hashini Ratnatunge is the Redhawks’ top returner, penciling in at No. 1 singles. Craig and Sibley — two other returners — started the year in single positions while Thanushi Ratnatunge and Shaw led the top doubles unit.

Greenfield

GIRLS COACH: Alexis Silk

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 8-7

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D4 prelims

GIRLS ROSTER: Rebecca Covalenco, Lydia Wood, Izzy Semonelli, Amy Mihailicenco, Maddie Mosher, Adele Bross, Karinna Kostov, Destiny Rodriguez, Elizabeth Derivolkova, Suraya Zacarias, Erika Savchuk

OUTLOOK: Covalenco leads the Green Wave this spring, this being her fifth year on the team, as she hopes to lead Greenfield to its third straight state tournament appearance.

Mihailicenco is a freshman who Silk said has made strides forward, Semonelli is another returner who has improved and can slide in either as a singles or doubles player while Wood, a senior, has taken her game to another level during her final season with the Green Wave.

Mohawk Trail

GIRLS COACH: Caitlin Mans

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 9-9

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D4 prelims

GIRLS ROSTER: Sawyer Thurber, Josh Cerone, Anneke Whitsett, Wyeth Miller, Ben Russell, Kiera Taylor, Victoria Chasse, Morgan Ricko, Landon Clark, Hazel Foucault, Ivan Hillenbrand, Eliza Crowell, Palmer King

OUTLOOK: Foucault, a sophomore, will lead the Warrior lineup after serving as the No. 3 singles player a season ago on a Mohawk Trail squad that reached the state tournament for the second straight season.

King, a junior, will again be a factor at the top of the lineup while Hillenbrand, Crowell and Clark round out the remaining high school aged players for Mohawk Trail. The remainder of the team is comprised of middle schoolers who will look to grow throughout the year.

The Warriors are hoping to have a boys team next spring.

Turners

GIRLS COACH: Vic Gonzalez

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 6-11

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Missed state tournament

GIRLS ROSTER: Samantha Carr, Allysia Corbin, Izzy Decker, Maya Deramo, Rachel Harris, Avery Heathwaite, Khiarieliex Huertas Hernandez, Fiona Hutchison, Lydia MacMunn-Seaman, Gianna Marigliano, Marketa Vachula-Curtis, Olivia Wolbach, Rhiannon Smith, Regan Marshall

OUTLOOK: Wolbach and Heathwaite return from last season and will hope to lead the Thunder to a state tournament appearance. Wolbach served as Turners’ No. 1 while Heathwaite was in the No. 2 spot to open the season.

MacMunn-Seaman, Huertas Hernandez, Carr, Hutchison and Marshall also factored into the early season lineup for Turners.

Boys teams

Frontier

BOYS COACH: Stephen Bryant

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 10-3

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: D4 prelims

BOYS ROSTER: Jacob Han, Robert Fuqua, Caiden Manning, Oliver Brown, Brayden Reipold, Matthew Sibley, Donovan Vichi, Noah Nichols, Harrison Manning, Sage Davis, Benjamin Sweet

OUTLOOK: The Tri-County League North champs from a season ago will look to defend their crown, with a returning roster capable of doing just that.

Han, a senior, opens the season in the No. 1 singles spot, Fuqua, another senior, will be in the No. 2 singles spot while Manning slides into the No. 3 singles spot.

Brown, Reipold, Sibley and Vichi are expected to open the season in doubles spots for Bryant.

Turners

BOYS COACH: Steve Touloumitzis

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Tri-County North/4

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 0-14

TOURNAMENT RESULTS: Missed state tournament

BOYS ROSTER: Mike Boyle, Noah Kolodziej, John Carmichael, Vaughn LaValley, Edward Walsh, Max Briere, Lucas Black, Noah Blanchard, Nethaniel Martin, Jayden Weber, Connor Glennon, Mario Pareja, Khalifa Seck, Michael Waite

OUTLOOK: The Thunder will be looking to get back in the win column this spring.

Boyle returns in No. 1 singles as a senior, Kolodziej started the season strong in No. 2 singles while Carmichael will occupy the No. 3 singles spot. Walsh, LaValley, Briere and Black will take on the doubles spots.