Nonnewaug High tennis players Sophia Pagnementa, left, and Marley Baker are undefeated in Berkshire League play since becoming a doubles team last season.
WOODBURY — Sophia Pagnamenta and Marley Baker realized they were really clicking as a tandem during their only loss of the 2021 season. The Nonnewaug High girls tennis players, then in their junior season, were in their first season as doubles partners. The duo went through the regular season undefeated and won the Berkshire League doubles championship.
In the State Open quarterfinals, Pagnamenta and Baker lost to eventual state champions Eesha Acharya and Sydney Pitter of Amity, 6-2, 6-3. But it was in that defeat they realized the heights they could reach together. “The score doesn’t translate how close we were together with them and hanging in,” Baker said before Wednesday’s match against Housatonic. Pagnamenta added: “We were able to hold our ground and even though the score might not show it, it showed what we were capable of when we pushed ourselves.”
The duo were undefeated through seven matches this season as Nonnewaug’s No. 1 doubles team. Pagnamenta and Baker hadn’t played tennis together before their junior season. Nonnewaug coach Chris York said last year he realized where Pagnamenta and Baker were athletically and personality wise, and pairing them made the most sense for the team. They all agreed their games complemented each other.
“Sophia is really talented at the net,” York said. “She is an All-State soccer goalie. She is fearless at the net. Marley’s backhand is ridiculous. She has an unbelievable backhand. Her backhand with Sophia’s net play, they are just really strong, very athletic and confident.”
The girls were friends off the court, which helped them form a great team quickly. Pagnamenta said communication is essential to their success.
“Especially when we have to switch sides and who is going for the ball, who should cover for the other person and if they want to stay up or not,” she said. “It is basically like having a whole other eye to view the court. If you are a little lost or confused, you have your partner right there to keep you in check.”
Pagnamenta and Baker each noted how they don’t get mad at each other on the court and are able to laugh off any mistakes. That attitude helps them deflect any pressure they may feel to keep their unbeaten BL streak going. “The good thing is we don’t pressure ourselves,” Baker said. “It’s just outside pressure. But when we play together there is nothing like (pressure). If we mess up, we mess up.”
York believes playing nonleague teams over the past couple of years, including this season facing Holy Cross, Guilford and today’s match against Brookfield, will make Pagnamenta and Baker stronger. He doesn’t recall Nonnewaug ever having back-to-back doubles champions in girls tennis and said their State Open chances will depend on the luck of the draw.
The girls are determined to end their Nonnewaug careers by defending their BL crown and adding a state title to their résumé.
“It would be really cool (to win the BL) two years in a row. It is something we are working for,” Baker said. “We were talking about (winning states) last year when we lost. We were like, ‘We are definitely going to try and win it next year.’ That is our goal.”