With only one returning athlete who had significant varsity experience, Head Coach Bob Migliorini wasn’t sure what was in store for the North Haven girls’ tennis team when it hit the court for the 2021 season. Despite that lack of experience, North Haven enjoyed a strong campaign that featured 12 victories and a run to the semifinals of the Class L State Tournament.
Junior Ally Vollero was the only player on North Haven’s roster who was in the starting lineup two years ago. Coach Migliorini felt proud to see plenty of other players step up and help his team put together a winning season this spring.
“I didn’t know what to expect with the season. We had nine new girls with no varsity experience. I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year,” said Migliorini. “Ultimately, it turned out to be a really good season. They came together as a team and really improved.”
After going 9-7 during the regular season, North Haven entered the SCC Division I Tournament as the No. 5 seed and took a 6-1 defeat to No. 4 seed Lauralton Hall in quarterfinal round. While North Haven was disappointed with the loss, Coach Migliorini’s athletes were determined to bounce back when they opened play in states.
“I thought we could do well going into the State Tournament. I thought we could do really well as we didn’t have to play [eventual champion] Daniel Hand early,” Migliorini said. “We just took it one match at a time going into states.”
As the No. 15 seed in the Class L State Tournament, North Haven earned a 7-0 win versus No. 18 Bristol Central in the qualifying round and then blanked No. 2 Woodstock Academy by that same score in a first-round matchup. North Haven went on to get a 4-3 victory over No. 10 seed Guilford in the quarterfinals before taking a 4-3 loss to No. 3 Avon in the semis and finish the year with an overall record of 12-9.
Coach Migliorini felt that North Haven was ready to succeed in states after traversing through a challenging SCC Division I schedule throughout the regular season.
“We were the 15th seed, but we were much better than a 15th seed. We played a really difficult schedule,” said Migliorini. “I think we surprised a bunch of people. But I thought we could do it. We did well with that difficult schedule.”
Seniors Megan Kell and Nadia Kavgaci served as North Haven’s captains this season. The duo played No. 1 doubles and finished the year with 10 victories to their credit. Coach Migliorini said that Kell and Kavgaci both proved crucial in helping North Haven succeed, while keeping everyone on the team together both on and off the court.
“They did a great job as co-captains for the team,” said Migliorini. “With COVID and all the extra protocols, they really stepped up and played a great role as leaders. They were role models for the younger players.”
North Haven’s senior class also included Sophia DelVecchio and Kaitlyn Ha, who notched 10 victories at No. 2 doubles on their way to winning the team’s Most Improved Award. The other seniors on the squad were Gillian Benowitz, Jannat Butt, Alyssa Laborde, Sophia Raposo, and Merve Sariyildiz.
While North Haven is losing several seniors, the team will return six of its 10 starters from this year’s team next spring. This includes Vollero, who posted a record of 14-7 at No. 1 singles on her way to being named North Haven’s Most Valuable Player and earning a spot on the All-SCC Division I Team in 2021.
Junior Taylor Morris finished with a record of 17-4 playing No. 2 singles in her first season with the team, earning North Haven’s Coaches’ Award. Sophomore Risa Tobin went 13-8 at the No. 3 singles position for North Haven. Freshman Chandler Morris played No. 4 singles and earned a record of 12-9 on the year.
North Haven’s No. 3 doubles team of juniors Zeena Mohamed and Noelle Carmody recorded a mark of 11-10 this season. Freshman Samantha Ide also saw playing time in some of North Haven’s varsity matches.
North Haven’s roster also included juniors Zoey LoPresti, Ariana Stewart, and Scarlett Vogel; sophomore Samantha Adams; and freshmen Rachel Adams, Alyssa Cherian, Sonia Temfack, and Shen Wan.
Coach Migliorini is hoping that his returning players learned a lot from this year’s seniors and will be ready to continue improving in whatever roles they take on next season. Migliorini added that North Haven’s deep run in the Class L State Tournament should serve as a template for what North Haven needs to do in order to reach the highest level.
“We can build off of this season,” Migliorini said. “We got six starters coming back. We have a couple girls who weren’t in the lineup who can step into the lineup next year. I think we’re going to have a couple new freshmen coming in who are poised to be really good. I think we have an opportunity to be really good next year in the SCC and at states.”
Migliorini was pleasantly surprised with what North Haven accomplished during his 13th year as the program’s head coach. Looking back at the season, Migliorini said that he will always remember how hard his athletes battled as North Haven made believers out of any doubters.
“We overachieved in what I thought the expectations were. I didn’t think we would have nearly as good of a season as we did going in,” said Migliorini, who was assisted by his daughter Alyssa Migliorini, a program alum. “It was somewhat surprising and unexpectedly good. We surprised a bunch of people. That’s how good we were.”