by Tom Utescher
With the loss of a veteran head coach and of eight seniors from the 2014 roster, there was some question about how well the Mount St. Joseph Academy tennis team could do this fall.
Despite this significant personnel shake-up, the Magic racquet squad not only survived, but thrived, making an undefeated run through the 2015 regular season. Since the Athletic Association of Catholic Academies no longer holds its own tournament, the Mounties’ perfect 14-0 record in the double-round of AACA matches earned them the league championship. They also knocked off teams from three nearby public schools, making for an overall mark of 17-0.
In Catholic Academies play, Bucks County’s Villa Joseph Marie provided the most resistance for the Mount, who prevailed over the Jems twice by a score of 3-2. Against all other AACA opponents, the Magic won either 4-1 or 5-0.
Early in the season they knocked off Springfield High School, 5-0, and later Mount St. Joe brought up some JV players for two bouts conducted in the customary three-singles, four-doubles public league format. Here, the Mounties logged 4-3 wins over Wissahickon High School and Plymouth Whitemarsh.
The new leaders of the Mount St. Joseph program were not unfamiliar with the Mount and Catholic Academies tennis. Head coach Joy Grafenstine, who brought along with her newly-enrolled freshman daughter Alexis, had attended Nazareth Academy and had coached at another league school, St. Basil’s. Assistant Amy Christine is also a Mount mom; one daughter, Emily, was a senior on the Magic’s 2014 team, and another, Elizabeth, is Alexis Grafenstine’s classmate in ninth grade this year.
These weren’t the only family ties connecting current and former Mount St. Joe teams, since 2014 grad Morgan Weiss was replaced at the number one singles position this fall by her sister, Stow, another member of the class of 2019.
A returning player, junior Julianne Dishler, wound up sandwiched between Weiss and Elizabeth Christine in the singles line-up, playing number two and building an individual record of 12-2 in the AACA and 15-2 in the regular season overall. Weiss, a freshman with the toughest assignment from day-to-day, went 10-4 in the league and 13-4 overall, while at third singles Christine won every match she played, going 14-0, 17-0.
As you’d expect from a team with its overall record, the Mount squad featured a strong doubles component, as well. In the first flight juniors Katie O’Sullivan and Ali Nowak went 13-1 in the league and 15-2 against all comers, and an identical record was produced by junior Meredith Fink and sophomore Maddie Walsh in the second flight.
In postseason play in PIAA District 1, MSJ’s Weiss won her first match in the Class AAA singles tournament, then suffered a thigh pull during her second bout and had to forfeit to fellow freshman Sydney Lund of Central Bucks East High School.
When Weiss recovered, she and the Magic faced C.B. East (the Suburban One League Continental Conference Champion) in the opening round of the district’s team tourney. Weiss defeated Lund this time around and Christine won her third singles match, but the Patriots prevailed elsewhere to win 3-2.
In District 1 doubles play, the MSJ tandem of Weiss and Dishler went 1-1.
In all, it would’ve been tough for Coach Grafenstine to envision a better debut season as Mount St. Joe’s skipper.
“It was a wonderful group,” she said. “The girls get along great. They’re supportive of one another and they put the team first.”
She must already be looking forward to next year, since there was not a single senior among the Magic’s varsity seven this fall.