Spartan girls eye Berkshire racquet laurels

Court success and Shepaug Valley school girls tennis have been synonmous for many years.

Yet even with the many wins and individual accolades, the Spartans haven't brought home a Berkshire League team title plaque in recent seasons.

As coach Joanne Kelly's racquet crew reaches the season's midpoint this week, the 2015 Berkshire championship is very much a realstic goal.

"The girls are showing good composure," Kelly said, "and seem more confident early in the season this year."

As the Spartans headed Tuesday, April 28, to Winsted to challenge Gilbert, they owned a 7-0 ledger and an undisputed grip on first place.

"We got an early 4-3 win against Litchfield, which was key in our hopes to fight for league laurels," Kelly said. "We play them again next Monday, May 4, and hopefully we can have another successful match."

A deep singles corps has proven the lynchpin to early-season success.

"Our singles players, Caroline Kelly, Haley Pesce, Kate Klein and Emma Virbickas, have been the backbone of this team so far," Kelly said. "None of them have lost a match to date."

Still, the Spartan mentor knows it'll take significant contributions from the three doubles tandems to assure Berkshire success, and possible state Class S recognition later on this spring.

"Our doubles teams are working hard to improve on their performance," Kelly said, "and I expect good things from them in the second half of the season."

As the Spartans head down the season's homestretch later this month, they'll need to pause May 14 to help celebrate their coach.

Coach Kelly will be honored that day by the Connecticut High School Coaches Association as its 2015 Connecticut Girls Tennis Coach of the Year.

Still, the Shepaug team's attention is very much on its Berkshire League goals.

"If the girls can stay focused and committed to the season," Kelly said, "we should have a great year."

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-- Norm Cummings

Photography by Norm Cummings