Story courtesy of College Sport Media
Friendship, positivity, support and confidence from early results all contributed to Queen Margaret College’s success in winning the national Secondary School Tennis Title. The team did not know what to expect when going into the three-day event at Wilding Park in Christchurch during Summer Tournament Week.
Day one would see them take on home team, St Margaret’s College. QMC would win the rubber 4-2. The tournament involves squads of four with all players being on court at the same time. This meant the team had to battle on against the support the Christchurch school received.
The day-one win strengthened Queen Margaret’s conviction to take the tournament. The team’s next opponents were the highly regarded Saint Kentigern College (Auckland). The team faced a number of tense moments but held their composure to record an important 4-2 win.
The win was made more impressive as they travelled to Christchurch without a coach, as team coach David Knight was in Malaysia with the New Zealand under 14 boys’ team.
The team are grateful to Alice Bolton, the school’s sports prefect. Alice, herself, is a tennis player but due to a sports injury had to sit out this event. Her being in Christchurch was important as she provided support to the team and was a gopher fetching stuff for the squad. Alice also acted as an intermediary with contacting David online, to clarify strategies on how to structure the team’s combinations in each of the ties.
The final day saw QMC play Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College. They would win the rubber 5-1 and take the tournament as the event’s only unbeaten school.
The team knew they had won when Maria Galatescu scored the winner in her singles’ game. They had won enough matches so that no other school could bridge the gap even if QMC did lose their rubber against St Cuthbert’s.
Maria would sum it up as “we all wanted to do our best. We knew we weren’t the top seeds, but we willed each other to do well. Beating St Margaret’s in the first round gave us confidence to push on for the rest of the tournament.”
Squad members: Alice Bolton, Mia Campbell, Maria Galatescu, Emma Roberts and Faith Saidgrove have known each other since they were 10 and 11 years old. Mixing either at school or in tennis circles.
Maria has had a busy year with tennis, having played internationally ranking junior tournaments in Thailand and Malaysia, as well as competitions in New Zealand. Her ranking was as high as 411 globally, however she has slipped to the mid-500s, which is in part due to not being able to enter higher ranking events.
The Covid years limited Maria’s access to international competitions. “It was like everything was put on hold. I’m determined to enter more events and improve my seeding.”
Maria admits she was teased about playing tennis when she first started. “People were wondering what I was doing playing the game. I wasn’t gifted. But with more training the more natural it got.”
“It was my dad who brought me into tennis. He saw the potential in me.” From early days, Maria developed a passion for the sport and a desire to get better. She harbours ambitions to play at Wimbledon and even the US Open. With these dreams Maria acknowledges there is a lot of hard work ahead of her. Next steps include investigating scholarship opportunities in the USA.
When asked how she balanced school with tennis: “I try to clear my schoolwork first, so that I can then enjoy some free time or be able to focus on my training properly”. She is grateful to her school for giving her the flexibility to travel and pursue her sporting goals. “My teachers check in on me, giving me guidance to keep me ahead of task”.
With the win in Christchurch, Maria added thanks to Gretchen Campbell for accompanying the team down south and helping with transport and cooking, and the school’s Sports Director Nadine Stembridge for organising all the travel details.
Article added: Wednesday 03 May 2023
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