Patience pays off for Mayne

Woodland’s Ally Mayne returns a shot during a match against St. Paul’s Natasha Kempes in the NVL girls singles tennis tournament final May 24 at Woodland Regional High School in Beacon Falls. Mayne beat Kempes, 0-6, 6-1, 6-1, to win the title. –ELIO GUGLIOTTI

BEACON FALLS — Woodland’s Ally Mayne has waited three years to walk off the court as NVL champion. The wait is finally over.

Mayne, a senior and the Hawks’ No. 1 singles player, beat St. Paul’s Natasha Kempes, 0-6, 6-1, 6-1, in the final of the NVL singles girls tennis tournament May 24 at Woodland to claim the crown that has been just out of her reach.

“It feels amazing,” said Mayne after celebrating with her teammates, friends and family. “I’ve been waiting for the past three years to finally win the tournament, and I’m just excited it finally happened.”

Mayne reached the semifinals of the tournament as a sophomore. Last year, she took a step closer and made the final where she played Kempes, who beat her 6-1, 6-1.

Kempes won both meetings with Mayne during the regular season this year, 8-2 and then 9-7, and came into the tournament the favorite to win another championship.

“I’ve played Natasha for the past two years,” Mayne said. “This past season, we came pretty close the last game. So, I knew that if I stuck with my consistency and did the shots I was comfortable with I might be able to pull a win out of it.”

Early on in last week’s final, it looked like the title would again elude Mayne. Kempes, the top seed, took the first set at love.

Mayne, the No. 2 seed, remained calm and patient, though. As Kempes, armed with a powerful serve, sought to end points quickly — a tactic that cost her some points due to unforced errors — Mayne countered by extending points, staying consistent and simply trying to hit every ball back over the net.

“Slow and steady. That’s usually how I play,” said Mayne, who beat Wolcott’s Edona Bytyqi in the semifinals earlier in the day.

Her strategy worked. Mayne only dropped two games in the final two sets.

“When your opponent is getting balls back to you, you get frustrated and impatient and you just want to win the point,” Kempes told the Republican-American. “But she played a great game today.”

Woodland head coach Kate Gavigan said Mayne’s “consistency is like no other.”

“In her own words, she’s waited for years for it. And so have we, because we knew she could do it,” Gavigan said.

A smile broke through Mayne’s game face after the last point was tallied. As she walked off the court to cheers, she breathed almost a sigh of relief with one word mixed in: “Finally.”

“I’m just excited,” Mayne said. “I put in so much dedication into this sport. I train in the offseason. I put in a ton of practice hours. So, I’m happy to see it finally pay off.”