HINGHAM – One of the lingering mysteries of the game of tennis is its quirky love scoring system, which by most accounts has been around for over 200 years. The two leading theories, neither of which are unassailable, posit French and Latin explanations for the use of the word love in tables, games, and sets.
The French explanation is that players shout love because it is very similar to the word louef in French. Loeuf in French refers to an egg that resembles a zero in appearance and hence the expression goose egg when one scores a zero. Fortunately, the Hingham High girls tennis team has been handing out a lot of goose eggs over the past year and rarely had eggs on our faces. I have already forgotten the smells in practice!
The Latin theory of love scoring is that for tennis players, the sport can truly be a labor of love, enthralled by the experience of being on the court with no regard for benefit or reward. This theory ties into the origin of the word amateur who plays unpaid but out of love for the sport. The word amateur is derived from the Latin word amare, which means to love, and so its Latin origin forms the circle about how love scores came about.
Now that I’ve numbed you thoroughly with this pedantic digression, the fairest way to end the scientific debate would be to let our teams, French and Latin linguists respectively, Mathilde Megard and Agnes OReilly, tie the score in the French vs Latin debate . But before they do, I’m going to cast my vote. I think it’s undeniable that the sport of team tennis is, at its best, a game of love, so I’m going to my grave arguing that the ancient Romans knew best.
When I think back to our season, which came to an abrupt halt 4-1 to the three-time defending Div. 1 Champion Acton-Boxborough on a sun-filled, relatively windless June day at Hingham High School, I didn’t think about defeat as our team gathered one last time to reflect on a great season and the banquet to come. Yes, who could forget we romped through the Patriot League undefeated, knocking down arch-rivals Scituate and Duxbury, winning a thrilling 3-2 game vs. perpetual Div. 1 powerhouse Wellesley High School, dropping just two games all season, one to Brookline and the other to AB in our last game of the year.
Quite an achievement for our first playoff season as a Division 1 member.
But these tangible achievements pale in comparison to all the examples of love I’ve seen over the past season. Let me name a few:
Coach Linda Partridge, on mandatory bed rest after heel surgery, checked our match scores and defied doctors orders to remain immobile and came to practice to encourage and support the team.
On her way to a close friend’s memorial service in New York on the day of our important game at Wellesley High, Coach Lisa makes a game pit stop to provide last-minute strategy tips, then beams with pride and laughter through the speakerphone as our van goes home after an exciting comeback with 3-2 victory over Wellesley. Trailing 0-2, we turned the tables and won the last three games in three long sets.
Coach Patty, she with the booming voice full of joy, self-deprecating humor and encouragement, works tirelessly with Simran Vaishnova on the practice to improve her game and consistency on all courts, reminding her that she is so close to putting it all together and is about to climb Mount Brooke.
Mathilde Megard, who loves the process, pressure and experience of playing against Brookline superstar Caroline Driscoll, is all smiles after losing 8-0 in her professional game set. Mathilde played great that day and we were all impressed with some rallies and power tennis. You may have only won two points, but after that match, everyone knew you were a winner. Who knows, one day you may tell your family that you played that tennis pro and held many rallies. If only you’d used my scoring system for playing Lexi Dewire (every point won counts as a set), you might even brag about being victorious.
Sanya Khadivi and Renee Martel vs. Maggie OKeeffee and Susie Anderson on Friday, May 20, in their final challenge match to set our playoff lineup with a display of sportsmanship, joy and respect, not to mention great points and doubles technique, that mesmerized your coaches. Fraulein Forehand Sanya and Renee the Backhand ripper continued to punch Maggie with claps, but Maggie continued to laugh as she and Susie eventually prevailed. That challenge match will be forever frozen in time for me.
Our seniors, co-captains Teel Bowyer and Catelyn Arnold, and Agnes OReilly complemented their solid play on all fields with kindness, support and leadership, and each, in very different ways, was the glue of the team. While the sand in the hourglass of their high school careers may have disappeared, no one will forget the stability of the backcourt under pressure, Catelyns the line forehand winners and Agne’s rapid improvement over the past two years.
Overcoming an elbow injury mid-season, Katelyn Erikson never stops running, always fights and carries her team on her back in the Wellesley upset. You love your team too much to let an injury get in the way.
Brooke Flynn never stopped putting up with her opponents, a new verb to describe someone who always gets every ball back while smiling and quickly congratulating her opponent on a well-placed winner.
Jill McNamara, Olivia Halle, Kate Raduski and Ellie Clark, all newcomers to the team, all win competitions, but equally enjoy their exhibitions and the improvement process on the ground. It’s never easy not to be in the starting line-up, especially in a sport where match substitutions aren’t allowed, but mugging wasn’t part of this team’s vocabulary. Ellie delivers a great captaincy speech, but is one of the first to congratulate new junior captain Simran on training over the next few days. Speaking of Simran, who will never forget the day she conquered all odds and beat Marshfield’s number one, who accidentally played on lane three. As her teammates applauded her performance, you’d think we’d just won the state title.
Indeed, all great teams must love to become great teams who love the process more than the result, love the experience of playing and bonding through defeats and disappointments, love the pasta parties off the field, bus rides, outings , ice cream stops and even loving Maggie’s quirky humor. Championship teams without love are not great teams. Great teams bound by love are eternal.
Finally, while we are on the subject of tennis and love, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to this memorable Hingham High Varsity Girls tennis team of 2022. As some of you may know, I have always held a deep place in my heart. for the girls’ tennis team of 2020, the season that never happened, except in my fictionalized account, ironically, of that team that toppled Acton Boxborough in the state title game.
That class, led by Massachusetts individual champion Lexi Dewire and co-captains Carly Price and Sky Bordeau, would no doubt have been a team in their senior year that was tragically canceled due to the pandemic. That group of seniors was the first group I trained with regularly when we trudged to Everybody Fights Bootcamp classes in the early morning hours in the winter or met Sebastian at 7am at the Y to get into a two-hour clinic for his summer. camps started. I’ve had a hole in my heart ever since that last year of tennis faded away from the group, a hole that sometimes felt like the Big Dig construction project in Boston.
Slowly but surely, everyone on this team, from the coaches to the returning players to the outgoing captains and seniors and the newcomers, has filled that gap. Your kindness, your heart, your commitment, your attitude and your love for the team left an indelible impression and I cannot thank you enough (flour cookies and Bertucci pizza are just a small token of my appreciation). I finally remember the quote from my idol Roger Federer, a quote I completely screwed up during our last workout. Federer, arguably the greatest of all time, once remarked: It’s nice to be important, but more important to be nice. I’m sure many of you will one day become important in your chosen career, but I always remember this as the team whose kindness and love for the game was exciting and will be in my thoughts forever.
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