Dartmouth girls tennis looks to build new leadership after departure of top player

Apr 12, 2022

The Dartmouth High Girls Tennis Team is back on the court and ready to ace their upcoming season after winning the Southeast Conference Championship last year.

“I have a lot of faith — we have a really strong singles and doubles team,” said junior Nayan Bala, the team’s first singles player. “So I really think [a strong season] is in the cards for us.”

Bala played second singles last spring and moved into the team’s top spot this year after last year’s senior captain, Jaffa Heryudono, graduated.

This year’s second singles player, senior Sophie Waite, said that losing such a strong player and leader has changed the structure of the team, but that Bala and this year’s seniors are stepping up to fill the void.

“Jaffa was almost like a second coach — a great leader for the team,” she said. “But I think we’re figuring it out.”

Bala agreed that the team’s new makeup meant more responsibility for her and other top players, but was happy to take on the challenge.

“It’s definitely more pressure but it’s great to lead such a big diverse team,” she said.

The team’s two other seniors, Kat Charrier and Anna Camisa, both joined the team as freshmen after Camisa — a longtime tennis player — convinced Charrier to try out.

“We were the only two freshmen on the team,” Charrier said.

Now they say they are excited to be in position to take on additional responsibilities.

“We’d love to step up into a leadership role,” said Camisa, who said the two have been leading warmups and announcing players at the start of games. “We started as freshmen and now we get to be the older girls.”

Camisa is slotted as the team’s third singles player this season while Charrier will play in the first doubles team.

High school tennis matches feature matchups between teams’ top three singles players, and top two doubles teams.

Dartmouth played its first game of the season against Bishop Stang on April 1, losing 5-0.

“But we learned so much from that experience,” said Bala.

At the team’s second match at home against Old Rochester, the Indians improved, keeping the match competitive until the final set.

Old Rochester took an early lead after winning both doubles matches, but Dartmouth came back to tie the score at 2-2 after winning the first and second singles matches behind strong performances from Bala and Waite.

In the third singles match, Camisa played hard into the final set but was ultimately outlasted by ORR’s Macy Ingham who won the match for the away team.

“I think we saw an improvement from match one to match two,” said Head Coach Mark Gaffney. “ORR were a good team — I was pleased we were able to get two games and had a chance to get the win.”

Gaffney, who is in his second year as head coach, said his top priority for the team is to get better every time they play.

“You look to improve everyday whether you’re in a match or a practice — that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

After another tough loss to Fairhaven on April 8, the team got their first win against Barnstable on Monday, taking all five games.

The team will look to carry that momentum into its first league match on April 20 against New Bedford High.