Outstanding In Volleyball & Tennis Hopedale’s Evans Hopes For More Success at Westfield State

KEN HAMWEY Staff Sports Writer
Mikayla Evans
Issue Date: 
August, 2019
Article Body: 

Mikayla Evans will be starting a new chapter of her life when she begins her freshman year at Westfield State University next month and one of the Owls’ athletic teams could be getting a very capable and consistent competitor.
The 17-year-old Hopedale native, who was a Dual Valley Conference all-star in volleyball and tennis, hopes to earn a spot on the volleyball team’s roster. The 5-foot-4 Evans was a first-team DVC all-star at setter, a Worcester Telegram honorable-mention choice and her team’s MVP.
“I definitely will try out as a walk-on,’’ said Evans, who also compiled some dynamic statistics and earned additional accolades as a doubles players in tennis at Hopedale. “I’ve talked with Fred Glanville, Westfield’s coach, and he’s aware of my background as a setter. He knows I’m interested in playing volleyball.’’
Evans may have been one of Hopedale High’s best-kept athletic secrets. Whether it was volleyball or tennis, those teams benefitted big-time from her contributions. A captain in both, she led by example, was vocal and also displayed a supportive demeanor. In tennis, she was Hopedale’s rookie of the year and a two-time DVC all-star.
But, as rewarding as individual honors are, they took a back seat to team success. During her volleyball career as a Blue Raider, Evans played on two DVC championship squads and one district title team. In tennis, she played on four DVC title teams, competed on three district championship squads and twice played for the state championship.
Evans compiled some impressive numbers at Hopedale. Her career record in doubles matches was 45-4 and as a senior in volleyball she had 416 assists and 52 serve aces. But, when she talks about her top thrills in both sports, it’s very telling that her teams’ welfare was paramount.
“Last fall, many people viewed our volleyball team in ‘rebuilding’ mode,’’ she recalled. “As seniors, we didn’t appreciate that. And, as one of four captains, we all strived to build team chemistry. We finished 17-4 and got to the district semifinals. In tennis, my top thrill was qualifying for four straight district playoff berths. That’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity for a high-school athlete.’’
At Westfield State, Evans will major in elementary education and she hopes to eventually return to Hopedale to teach at that level. She should have little difficulty on the academic front in college after earning honor-roll status on a consistent basis in high school. On the athletic front, Evans will bring a plethora of strengths to the table.
An instinctive player with a high volleyball and tennis IQ, Evans’ competitive philosophy blends winning with two other key ingredients. “I want to win when I compete but it’s also important to reach one’s potential and to also enjoy competing,’’ she emphasized. “Another key is to learn life lessons from athletics. Sports helped me to be myself and to help others. I also strived to be resilient and mentally tough.’’
Those attributes were prevalent in memorable games Evans played at Hopedale. “Beating Sutton and Nipmuc in volleyball were solid wins,’’ she noted. “We won the third set, 31-29, and eventually won the match against Sutton my senior year. I got a lot of assists and digs in that matchup. Beating Nipmuc in the district quarterfinals last fall was an intense battle.’’
Her best outing in tennis came against Advance Math & Science Academy in the districts her junior year. “We beat them earlier in the season then defeated them in a tie-breaker in the tourney,’’ Evans said. “It was a tough match. My doubles partner, Rachel Szemthy, played so consistently.’’
Evans is quick to credit some teammates for her success as a two-sport athlete. “The other volleyball captains — Jenna Riley, Olivia Romano and Jenna Rose — were great leaders and libero Bianca Fitch was excellent,’’ Evans said. “Bianca will be a captain as a junior this fall. In tennis, Katelyn Brunt and I complemented one another well last spring in doubles. She’s very supportive. And, the other captains, Maddie Laprade and Aimee Figgins, were top-notch leaders and players.’’
Coaches also get high marks from Evans. She played for Andrew Mainini in volleyball and Arther Riffo in tennis. “Coach Mainini is a great coach who also is a top-notch motivator,’’ she said. “He relates well to his players. Coach Riffo is very capable, knows the game and also relates well to players.’’
Calling her parents (Rob and Joan) role models for their support and encouragement, Evans also includes Mainini because “he was easy to relate to and taught us to be resilient.’’
Besides earning honor-roll status in academics, Evans showed other leadership traits. She was vice president of student council and received the Martin Luther King Hopedale Power of One Award.
As she prepares for new adventures and challenges at the collegiate level, Evans is acutely aware that moving on from Hopedale High to college is both bittersweet and exciting.
“Our teams achieved lots of success and I’m going to miss my teammates and classmates,’’ she said. “I’ll miss the great times but it’s also exciting to head for college and face new challenges. I’m truly humbled by the individual and team success I experienced.’’
Mikayla Evans paid the price to succeed in athletics and academics at Hopedale High. And, there’s little doubt that she’ll strive to excel in both venues at Westfield State. Her desire and dedication are attributes that will again be very beneficial for her going forward.