05052021 The Cardinals' Riley Murphy

The Cardinals’ Riley Murphy fires off a backhand return during her center court match on Wednesday.

CLAREMONT — Gary Cullison and his girls tennis team is alive and well but still has a tough time finding teams to play while having their home matches on an outdated and crack littered tennis courts.

Playing under dreary skies on Tuesday, the Conant Orioles were the guests as the Cardinals looked for their first win of the season.

“We’re keeping the program alive and the kids we have are really dedicated to the sport,” Gullison said. “Most of our players are new to tennis and they have a hard time competing against schools that have players that play all year long, but we have a core group that practice hard and are always eager to learn.”

After falling to Lebanon for their first two matches of the year, the Cardinals #1 player Riley Murphy grabbed a win against the Orioles Margret Winiecki at center court before falling 8-1.

“I really like staying active and this team is so supportive,” said Murphy who also plays unified basketball and soccer. “It’s a new sport for me and everyone is so accepting and we all try to improve at practice and during the matches.”

Annika Ratcliffe, Autim Bragg, Amaya Eitapence and Olivia Diley all squared off against a much stronger and deeper Conant team while Libby Abbot grabbed a game win in her singles match playing in the #5 slot as Conant swept all the singles matches, 6-0.

With few schools offering a junior varsity tennis team, the young Cardinals are thrust into the fire to learn on the job.

“The girls aren’t afraid to compete and are always upbeat but it would be ideal to start with a junior varsity program but there is a limited number of New Hampshire school we can play,” Cullison said. “Hopefully next season there will be an opportunity to play some Vermont schools in our area.”

Conant would end up driving home with a win as the Orioles would grab all three doubles matches to close out the day.

Murphy / Ratcliffe – 0, Winiecki / Smith 8; Bragg / Eitapence – 0, Wheeler / Muilenberg 8; Abbott / Diley – 1, Weidner / Hart 8.

The Cardinals head to Jaffrey on Friday then welcome Lebanon and Wilton Lyndenborough to Monadnock park next week.

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