As a freshman, a wrist injury sidelined her for four months.
As a sophomore, a strained biceps tendon prevented her from playing most of the team tournament.
As a junior, a stress fracture in her foot threatened her spring season.
Was Olivia Leavitt of Falmouth fit and healthy enough this spring to defend her state singles title?
Trailing by a set in the championship match against Brunswick senior Maisie Silverman, Leavitt answered any and all questions about her durability by rallying to a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory that took nearly three hours on a sun-baked afternoon at Bates College in Lewiston.
For winning the singles tournament for the second year in a row, Leavitt is our choice as Maine Sunday Telegram Player of the Year in girls’ tennis.
“She just played phenomenal tennis all year,” said Falmouth Coach Sandra Stone, whose team extended its winning streak to 109 matches and seven state titles after dethroning Brunswick in the Class A final.
Mindful of her problematic past, Leavitt embarked on a personal training regimen a year ago that emphasized weightlifting and agility. Her fitness level proved decisive in the heat of the singles final, against an opponent who had eliminated her two years earlier on the way to the 2012 title.
“We’ve become a classic rivalry,” Leavitt said of her battles with Silverman. “I feel like I’ve matured a ton in those two years.”
Silverman won their first meeting 7-5, 0-6, 6-3 in the 2012 semifinals, when Leavitt was a fifth-seeded freshman. They met again in the 2013 finals, played indoors, and Leavitt rolled 6-1, 6-1 in a match in which both coaches intervened because of a dispute.
Following their three-setter earlier this month, in which Leavitt overcame 2-0 deficits in each of the final two sets and both players questioned her opponent’s line calls, they played once more at Bates when Falmouth and Brunswick met for the Class A state championship.
Earlier in that match, Silverman made the unusual request for a chair umpire, and Leavitt went on to win in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
“I was like, OK, my calls aren’t wrong, but that’s fine,” Leavitt said.
That victory capped a perfect season in team competition for Leavitt and her teammates, whose 16-0 record consisted entirely of 5-0 shutouts. The only threatening set all spring came at second doubles in the regional final against Portland, when freshmen Amanda Watson and Mary Hyland won 7-5, 6-0.
Leavitt played more of a leadership role this year, helping the freshmen get acclimated, coordinating training music (“Queen of the Boombox,” according to Stone) and rallying teammates for post-practice ice cream or pizza.
“She’s a take-charge kind of girl,” Stone said. “She was very gracious to the other players as she dominated at No. 1 singles but was always willing to step aside to let a swing player be part of the varsity lineup and earn their letter.”
Leavitt’s college search is already under way. An honor student, Leavitt is taking part in a showcase event this weekend at Yale. Among the schools that interest her are Villanova, Tufts, Brandeis and Georgetown.
Another interest is golf. Her stepfather plays, as does her boyfriend, Brendan McCarthy, who won the boys’ singles tournament.
“It’s similar to tennis,” she said. “Same motions, and it’s relaxing.”
Well, not always relaxing. Especially when the ball doesn’t go where Leavitt intends.
“I get frustrated,” she admitted. “I’m a very competitive person.”