Julia Chappell did not have overly high aspirations for herself entering her first season playing at No. 1 singles for the Assumption College women’s tennis team. The sophomore from Manchester simply wanted to finish with a .500 mark.
Thanks in part to a strong October campaign, Chappell concluded her sophomore campaign as the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year.
For posting a 5-3 mark in No. 1 singles play and going 7-1 in doubles competition last month, Chappell earned another accolade. She was chosen as the October Apple Therapy Services/Bedford Ambulatory Surgical Center/Express MED Athlete of the Month by the New Hampshire Union Leader Board of Judges.
“I didn’t really have anything to lose,” Chappell said. “I tried to be a more consistent player — keep the ball in play, be patient, be smart….I was adjusting to the higher level and trying to stay relaxed and be patient.”
Chappell, a lefty, utilizes the spin she puts on serves and her speed to her advantage. The Manchester Central graduate benefited from her quickness at No. 2 singles as a freshman and spent this past summer perfecting the spin on her serve.
“That really helped me,” Chappell said of developing her serve. “I could hold serve easier and then have confidence to break them back and get ahead early.”
Chappell opened the season 9-0 in No. 1 singles competition before losing, 1-6, 5-7, to Laura Fermosel of the University of New Haven on Oct. 10. She won eight of those first nine matches in straight sets.
Playing at No. 1 doubles, Chappell and her partner, junior Maria Monje, hit their stride as a pair in October. The duo went 2-3 in September but won their final five regular-season matches. Their lone setback last month came in Assumption’s 4-1 NE-10 quarterfinal loss at Adelphi on Oct. 24.
This season marked Chappell and Monje’s first as a pair and Monje’s first at No. 1 doubles. Chappell played No. 1 doubles as a freshman with Londonderry’s Cassie Burbine, who graduated last spring, as her partner.
“I think at first we were both a little nervous and not really expecting to win every match,” Chappell said. “We ended up doing really well and she definitely upped her game and stepped it up. We definitely held our own against all the doubles teams.”
Chappell finished the season with a 10-3 overall record in No. 1 singles play while she and Monje went 7-4 as a No. 1 doubles pair. Monje and Chappell were partnered for all but two matches, with Chappell winning both times she played No. 2 doubles with freshman Ana Escudero in October.
On the Greyhounds’ bus ride to Garden City, N.Y., for their conference quarterfinal bout at Adelphi, Chappell learned she was named the NE-10 Player of the Year. Assumption coach Megan Pirez saw the NE-10 had made the announcement on Twitter and relayed the good news to Chappell and her teammates.
“I thought she was joking at first,” Chappell said.
Once Chappell learned Pirez was serious and the subsequent shock subsided, Chappell called her dad, Marcus.
“Going into the season, my goal was to win at least half my matches,” Chappell said. “The fact I got that award was way above any expectations I had.”
Other athletes considered for the October honor were Manchester Central girls’ soccer players Paige LaBerge and Erin Flurey, Bedford High School boys’ soccer player Ryan Sledjeski, Keene State College men’s soccer player Emmanuel Smith, Winnisquam of Tilton football player Phil Nichols, Concord High School cross-country runner Forest MacKenzie, Merrimack Valley of Penacook cross-country runner Sophia Reynolds and University of New Hampshire field hockey player Finn Caron.
LaBerge, a senior, logged 10 goals and five assists over nine October games for the Little Green. Flurey, a sophomore, recorded 10 goals and three assists over six games for Central last month.
Sledjeski, a junior, tallied 10 goals and seven assists over Bedford’s final six regular-season games and two NHIAA Division I playoff wins.
Smith, a sophomore from Concord, registered six goals and two assists over six games for Keene State last month.
Nichols, a sophomore quarterback, recorded a 69.2 passing percentage (18-for-26) and 274 rushing yards on 16 carries over Winnisquam’s final three regular-season games — all wins. He logged 232 yards and three touchdowns alongside two interceptions through the air.
MacKenzie, a senior, won his second straight NHIAA Division I individual championship Oct. 27 at Derryfield Park in Manchester with his time of 15 minutes, 52.2 seconds. Reynolds, a freshman, won the Division II individual crown the same day by posting the fastest time by any female across the three divisions (18:32.9).
Caron, a freshman from Hampton, scored three goals and also had an assist over UNH’s final eight regular-season games.
Previous 2018 winners: January, Jaylen Leroy, Manchester (basketball); February, Warren Bartlett, Loudon (indoor track); March, Connor McGonagle, Danville (wrestling); April, Bobby Cliche, Stratham (baseball); May, Amanda Bickford, Salem (softball); June, Billy Powers, Seabrook (hurdling); July, Matt Paradis, Hooksett (golf); August, Sam Barton, Tuftonboro (golf); September, Thomas Morgan, Bedford (football).
To submit a nomination for future Athlete of the Month consideration, email the Union Leader Sports Department at firstname.lastname@example.org and enter “Athlete of the Month” in the subject line.
Athlete of the Month recipients are honored at the annual Leaders: A Celebration of Sports Champions event held in February.