In the three years junior captain Brooke Evans has played with the Holton-Arms varsity tennis team, she has known nothing but winning. The Panthers won three consecutive ISL AA championships, including last week’s title against Episcopal.
But perhaps this latest run of success was fueled by the failure that preceded it. For two years, Holton’s tennis dynasty was put on hold. The Panthers lost in the ISL AA tournament in 2014 and 2015, first to Bullis and then to National Cathedral School.
“I came on the team freshman year, and my sister had just come off of two losses,” Evans said. “They had it in their head and in my head that we had to win and that they were not going to go another year with losing.”
The Panthers rebounded in 2016 with an undefeated season and a title against Bullis, followed by an upset of top seed Potomac for the title in 2017.
This year, Evans “wasn’t sure if we had it in us” because of a big roster turnover. The team’s inexperience showed against Potomac and Episcopal, matches Holton-Arms lost, 4-3.
The taste of losing was back, and the Panthers again didn’t like it.
“I think that we might’ve gotten a little cocky, and I think that the loss is what we needed to get us in our place,” Evans said.
Holton-Arms won its remaining seven matches, including the playoffs. But it wasn’t easy.
In Thursday’s championship against Episcopal, Coach Yann Auzoux’s axiom for the season — “True grit can bend your fate” — was put to the test.
Evans did her part with a 10-0 win at No. 1 singles, clinching an undefeated singles season for her. But losses at No. 1 and 3 doubles meant the championship came down to the No. 2 doubles pairing of juniors Roshini Balan and Greta Hannam, whose match went to a tiebreak.
The duo pulled it out — and only after the match realized theirs was the clincher. “Everyone ran on the court and hugged us, and I started crying,” Hannam said. “It’s just the best feeling in the world.”