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    Sunday, May 19, 2024

    Local high school notes: Old Lyme’s Rahr honored by U.S. star Keys with ‘Medal of Kindness’

    Old Lyme girls’ tennis coach Lauren Rahr, left, talks with first doubles players Beatrice Hunt, center, and Aggie Hunt, right, in between sets during a match Monday against Portland. (Sarah Gordon/The Day)
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    Old Lyme girls’ tennis coach Lauren Rahr wrote American tennis star Madison Keys a note.

    It was after Rahr had watched Keys lose in the semifinals of the 2023 U.S. Open to Aryna Sabalenka in a third-set tiebreaker, one in which Sabalenka seemingly lost her cool, slamming her racket.

    Keys remained unfazed, Rahr thought.

    “Madi just walked to the baseline to serve almost as if nothing had happened,” said Rahr, Old Lyme’s fourth-year head coach. “I was yelling to my dad upstairs, ‘We better be recording this so the girls can see it.’ She treated everyone with respect; it’s hard to do when you lose on that big of a stage.

    “I just wrote to her and told her she had fans in Connecticut, she was an inspiration to female tennis players everywhere and I asked her for any advice she could share.”

    Earlier this week, a package arrived at Old Lyme for Rahr along with a “Medal of Kindness,” awarded by Keys, who is part of an initiative called “Kindness Wins.” She also made a video for Rahr.

    Keys’ advice for the Wildcats: “I know you’re starting a new season soon with a young team, so my advice would be focus on what you can control on your side of the net. Don’t be too hard on yourself if a shot doesn’t go your way and really just try to enjoy it. I definitely play better when I’m just out there having some fun.”

    Old Lyme, which has won three consecutive state championships, is 7-0 overall and in the Shoreline Conference, having upped its winning streak to 73 straight matches despite replacing a number of varsity players from a year ago.

    Twins Beatrice and Aggie Hunt are the Wildcats’ No. 1 doubles team and co-captains.

    “Miss Rahr really deserves it,” Beatrice Hunt said this week. “If I was going to give the Medal of Kindness to a single coach, I would give it to her. She has the perfect balance of tough love and love love. It took her the first year to find out tough love ... but like today she made us run and we’re better for it.”

    “We have players who were ready to take the spots,” said Aggie Hunt of Old Lyme’s continued success, citing Dave Rahr, Lauren’s dad and assistant coach, for his cultivation of the junior varsity team. “Beatrice and I want to fill in their shoes (at No. 1 doubles). The seniors who graduated were inspirational in terms of keeping the team really competitive. We want to maintain this team’s legacy but create our own legacy.”

    Rahr, a math teacher at the school, has been The Day’s All-Area Coach of the Year, the Shoreline Conference Coach of the Year and Old Lyme’s Outstanding Educator.

    When David met Goliath

    In a somewhat unusual pairing, Class LL program Norwich Free Academy took on Class S team Old Lyme on April 9, winning 2-0. The game featured a pitchers’ duel between NFA’s Hailey Smith and Old Lyme’s Emma Bayor, The Day’s reigning All-Area Softball Player of the Year.

    NFA’s Ava Boenig homered off Bayor.

    “It definitely was a great game,” NFA coach Athena Jaskiewicz said, when asked her opinion of the first time facing Bayor. “Emma is a great pitcher. She had a great changeup that definitely got us caught up a few times and a riseball that we had talked about in practice the day before and were aware of.

    “... With talented pitching, LL schools can compete with S, which is why I agreed to play them.”

    Jaskiewicz said NFA, 3-3 overall, is “gearing up to make a good run.” Old Lyme is 4-1 overall, 4-0 in the Shoreline Conference.

    ECC, ECC, ECC, ECC

    Due to an adjustment by the CIAC to its postseason basketball schedule next season, the Eastern Connecticut Conference will no longer be able to hold its league boys’ basketball tournaments at Mohegan Sun Arena on separate dates as it has.

    Instead, the ECC has one date and will squeeze all four games in on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2025. The league will hold its Division I and Division II boys’ and girls’ championship games at the Sun, with games at 2, 4, 6 and 8 p.m. The times will not be preset by gender or division but will be announced after the participants have been determined in the semifinals.

    To accommodate the championship schedule, the ECC girls’ semifinals will be held at Fitch on Saturday, Feb. 22, at 11, 1, 4 and 6. The boys’ semis will take place Sunday, Feb. 23, at Waterford, also at 11, 1, 4 and 6.

    “We are very excited to return to the Mohegan Sun Arena in 2025,” Ledyard athletic director Jim Buonocore said in an email to athletic directors and principals. “The importance of keeping our league basketball finals at the Mohegan Sun and allowing our student-athletes and school communities to experience participating in a first-class environment cannot be lost on any of us.

    “The Mohegan Sun continues to be a great partner of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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