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Deerfield completes long journey, wins girls tennis title

Hope Kitchen, left, and Lucy Kelley, right, and the rest of the DWS tennis team gave head coach Meredith Gruhl, center, another state championship.

Hope Kitchen, left, and Lucy Kelley, right, and the rest of the DWS tennis team gave head coach Meredith Gruhl, center, another state championship.

AUGUSTA — Somebody pinch the kids at Deerfield-Windsor.

Go ahead, they won’t mind — not now, not after winning it all, not after a journey that began in heartache and ended with hugs and shouts right there on the court.

Go ahead, pinch them, because the kids who play tennis at DWS aren’t dreaming. They’re the GISA Class AAA girls state champs.

“Everybody kept saying ‘Is it true? Is it really true?’ ” said DWS coach Meredith Gruhl, whose team swept past Stratford (3-0) in the semifinals and Augusta Prep (3-0) in the finals on Wednesday to win their first title since 2007.

It’s true. DWS ended the season unbeaten with an exclamation point and a bit of strategy.

Gruhl took her No. 1 (Tyson Joyner) and No. 2 (Caroline Holly) singles players and made them a doubles team to go along with Lucy Kelley and Hope Kitchen, who won the doubles state title at the individual state meet last week.

Amy Rao won her No. 3 singles match to nail down the semifinals, and Paige Hawke won at No. 2 singles to nail down the title match against Augusta.

“It was the end of a journey,’’ Gruhl said. “When they lost the region title last year by one point, they just sat on the bus on that long ride back from Tiftarea. They promised each other they would work hard, and they did. Everybody did their job. It takes a lot of unselfishness to win a state championship. Everybody contributes a different way.’’

And for the DWS kids, there is nothing like winning the team title.

“It means everything,’’ said Kelley, who just won the doubles individual title a week ago. “It definitely means much more. We’ve been working the last couple of years, and after losing the region title by one point we just worked so hard together to win it. We won it as a team.

“It’s so special,’’ she said. “When we won we just hugged and screamed. We couldn’t believe it.’’

It’s true, go ahead an believe it. Go ahead and pinch yourself, DWS. It’s no dream.