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Notre Dame girls tennis captures first district title in three years

The Notre Dame girls tennis team poses with the Class 2 District 1 Championship after beating St. Pius X 5-0 on Oct. 3 at Freedom Fitness in Jackson. Pictured from left to right: Sophomore Harper Raffety, sophomore Elle West, freshman Caroline Galati, senior Suna Mungee, senior Vita Galati, freshman Erika West, sophomore Mary Tyler Cox and freshman Maddy McDowell. Photo by Nick McNeal

Last Tuesday at the indoor tennis courts at Freedom Fitness in Jackson, Notre Dame senior Suna Mungee fell to her knees after winning her singles match over St. Pius X. Mungee was then swarmed by her fellow Bulldogs, including her best friend and doubles partner fellow senior Vita Galati, as Suna’s win had just secured them the Class 2 District 1 Championship.

“When I heard everybody screaming and running towards me, uh, it was so cool because it shows the support of the team and how much we care and love each other,” Mungee said.

Winning a district title is always a satisfying moment for any team, but it was especially sweet for Suna and Vita as they had both lost to St. Pius X 5-4 in last year’s much closer district final.

“This feels fantastic straight up,” Mungee said. “Last year was so close, and we all played so hard. The amount of work we’ve been putting in this year — we’re constantly working and constantly conditioning — so to know we just 5-0’ed a team that we were so close to last year is amazing.

Galati added, “It felt great to get that redemption, especially with having a newer team — a younger team — this year.”

The match was moved to Freedom Fitness instead of being played at Notre Dame’s courts due to inclement weather. Funny enough, the Bulldogs had to move venues during their freshman year in the district tournament because it became too dark outside to play.

“When we were at Notre Dame, it was kind of chaotic because we didn’t know what was happening and it started raining,” Galati explained. “Then we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen? We don’t want it to get rescheduled — we just want to play.”

Even though there were only two courts at Freedom Fitness, Galati and Mungee agreed they were both happy they played that day and, of course, everything worked out for them in the end. Suna eased herself out of the chaos by listening to some “hype music.”
Both Galati and Mungee’s singles matches were the last two wins Notre Dame needed to secure what is its second district

championship in four years. Prior to that, these doubles partners won the Class 2 District 1 doubles title over St. Pius X as well.
This means Galati and Mungee will compete in the doubles state tournament this week for a chance to become two-time all-state medalists after taking eighth place in their first trip to state last fall.

“I think it’s cool that I get to go to state twice with my best friend now,” Mungee said. “[Being our last time playing together] will hit us when we get there for sure, but to play and finish this year off especially with Vita — my best friend ever — is just so good — it’s awesome.”

While the Bulldogs didn’t allow the Lancers to win once in the district title match, this still didn’t mean it wasn’t a close contest. Galati and Mungee’s singles contests were very close as Vita had to win her’s via tiebreaker, while Suna overcame a deficit in the first set.

“I really wanted to win [against St. Pius X],” Galati laughed. “I was doing pretty good for a while then got down, but then I was like, ‘We need this.’ We were all relying on each other and to get that extra jump ahead.

“Tennis is definitely full of ups and downs. Emotional wise, there were some parts where I was super excited like, ‘I can do this — let’s go! I’m going to get this done in 20 minutes.’ Then there were parts where I’m like, ‘What am I doing?’ and I was getting frustrated. But I think the closer matches bring you more motivation than the ones where it’s a complete blowout or the other way around.”

Mungee added, “I actually really like those [St. Pius X] girls — they’re really sweet, and they were talking a lot to us. My first singles game, I was down and had to go to a tiebreaker, which is really stressful. Coming out of that and winning that set, I was like, ‘I want to make this next set quick.’ It was definitely stressful, but it was a lot of fun.”

Galati said that players have to break out of their mental block when they are in a stressful situation like both she and Mungee were in during their singles matches. These players also rely on the support they have off the court, but it also helped Vita and Suna were playing on the courts beside each other for singles.

“I love when we’re in between points and can talk to each other like, ‘Come on you’ve got it,’” Galati said. “It’s definitely that support that gets me through it. During doubles we’re right there, but when it’s singles you have nobody there to hype you up or get you back out of your mental block.”

Picking up wins for Notre Dame outside of Galati and Mungee were the doubles teams of freshmen Caroline Galati and Erika West and sophomores Mary Tyler Cox and Elle West. Erika West was on pace to win her singles match while playing at the same time as Suna.

Another underclassmen who has helped the Bulldogs significantly this season but didn’t get a chance to play in the district title match was sophomore Harper Raffety. This was due to there only being two courts.

“I’m so proud of those girls because I remember going into our first open court and was a little nervous because we lost three of our seniors,” Mungee said. “Our younger players have really stepped up and shown they’re gonna carry the team after Vita and I graduate.”

Galati added, “I think they’ve exceeded every-body’s expectations as to what they were going to add to the team. … I feel like the team spirit is what’s been really good — supporting each other.”

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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