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Wildcats go back-to-back with second straight unbeaten regular season in girls' tennis

Clinton — The first match of her career came on April 10 last year, a Saturday, and Old Lyme High School girls' tennis coach Lauren Rahr was pretty fired up, wearing all of her Wildcats garb and dancing around her family's kitchen.

She just wanted to win that first match.

And then ...

"These girls have changed my life," Rahr said Wednesday following a 6-1 victory over the Morgan School. "They've taught me to be a better person. They've showed me that even on your toughest days you can still find the silver lining in everything. I can be having a crazy day and the second I step on the tennis courts with these girls, nothing else in the world matters."

The victory over Morgan marked Old Lyme's 39th straight over two seasons, concluding the Wildcats' second straight unbeaten regular season at 19-0 overall. They're 14-0 in the Shoreline Conference, league champions for the second year in a row headed into next week's individual conference tournament (which has no team titles).

Rahr's team was the 2021 Class S state champion.

This year, the Wildcats have even ventured outside the conference with two matches against Waterford (Rahr's alma mater) and one against Eastern Connecticut Conference Division I champion Stonington. Old Lyme beat Stonington 4-3 last week, sweeping the doubles. The match was tied 3-3 before the third doubles team of Fiona Hufford and Izzy Reynolds won the clinching point in the last glimmer of daylight.

On Wednesday, Abby Sicuranza, Callie Bass and Elaina Morosky won singles matches and victories went to Old Lyme's doubles teams of Alexis Fenton and Livie Bass, Aggie Hunt and Beatrice Hunt and Hufford and Reynolds. Sicuranza and Hufford are the two seniors of the group.

"Really amazing," Sicuranza said of the regular-season repeat. "I didn't know what to expect when I joined the team two years ago. This is beyond my wildest dreams. I really cannot believe that we did it again. I'm just so proud of the team. We ignored the pressure and we just played the tennis that we loved. There have been a few matches that are nail-biters. We just go out there and play our best tennis."

"We have such a great group of girls, so I'm not terribly surprised because they put in so much effort," Hufford said. "But I never expected two undefeated seasons in a row."

Hufford said Rahr never told her or Reynolds that the Stonington match was depending on them.

"I thought we were just the last one," she said of the crowd that gathered around the court where they were playing. "We were just playing calm, playing our game."

Hufford had Rahr as a geometry teacher in 2020, the year the spring season was canceled due to the pandemic. Rahr was set to take over as coach but had to wait, perhaps resulting in her excitement the day win No. 1 finally went in the books against Old Saybrook. Hufford couldn't wait either.

"I was so excited to have her for a coach after having her for a teacher," Hufford said. "I was just thrilled to go into a season for her. Amazing person, amazing teacher, amazing coach. I think that's why we're so excited to be playing every day."

The 25-year-old Rahr got choked up over the Stonington win, yielding her post-match comments to the team to her dad/assistant coach, Dave. It was a moment which felt like things came full circle for her, having competed against the Bears while a player at Waterford.

The victory over Morgan brought a planned ice cream celebration for a job well done ... again.

"With all the challenges we threw at them this year with the out-of-conference matches, too?" Rahr said. "We had no idea going into that (that we were going to finish undefeated). All we knew is we wanted to show up and do our best."

v.fulkerson@theday.com

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