The most dominant team in the state wears skirts. Then again, they have to, it’s their uniform. When the Visitation Academy tennis team left the Cooper Tennis Complex in Springfield two weeks ago, it brought with it a familiar friend, the Class 1 State Championship trophy. The Vivettes and the trophy got to know one another last season. They were almost best buddies the year before, but we’ll get to that. It is by no means a stretch to imagine they’ll be reacquainted at the end of next season. What makes Visitation such an impressive team is not that it’s hoarding state trophies; it’s the way it’s gone about collecting them.
Over the past three seasons, the Vivettes are a ridiculous 50-1. That one loss came to MICDS in the 2009 state championship match after 15 consecutive wins. Last year, Visitation went 17-0. This season, it was 18-0. The Vivettes have won 35 consecutive matches. With three more wins they’ll tie Knob Noster’s state record of 38 set from 2000-2002.
The reason for this team’s success? It can be found in four incredible players who, at first blush, don’t have the look of a group that is among the most historically dominant in the state.
When juniors Briana Menolascino, Jocelyn Koester, Marielle Newell and Jana Haikal showed up on campus as freshmen, the Viz tennis team went into orbit. Each of this fearsome foursome could be the best player at almost any other school. “Lots of teams don’t have four really good players,” Koester says. “We push each other.”
Technically speaking Koester is the No. 1 player, followed in order by Menolascino, Newell and Haikal. It’s not a particularly intimidating group away from the court. Koester is the tallest at 5 foot 8. Everyone else checks in between 5 foot 4 and 5 foot 5. While they are tiny, if you put a racket in their hand it doesn’t take long to figure out they’re quite mighty.
Any coach worth their salt will tell you the proven way to get better is to compete against the best. It just so happens, Viz coach Annie Meness gets to live that motto every day at practice. This season, more than before, Meness put the team through rigorous training sessions. It was done to give the Vivettes the best chance to defend their title. “At the end of the day, we all knew it would be worth it,” Haikal says.
But those tough practices can bring the beast out. Though tight-knit more often than not, there were times frustration got the better of the girls. “Sometimes we get a little competitive,” Menolascino says.
But once those five minutes have passed, the girls are once again friends. They say that, in no small way, is part of the reason they’ve been so dominant. “We’re a close team,” Newell says.
They are a team on the cusp of becoming the best to ever play the game.