When Annika Burgess came to Stonington High School as a freshman, her older sister Emilie was the Bears' No. 1 singles player.
"We're really close. We don't like to play against each other," Burgess said. "We never played each other (in a challenge match) for the No. 1 spot. She was No. 1 and I was No. 2 and that was fine with us."
This season, it was Annika's turn to be the Burgess at the top of the Stonington singles ladder, following Emilie's graduation. And it was her chance to become the Eastern Connecticut Conference singles champion.
Annika Burgess also follows her sister as The Day's All-Area Girls' Tennis Player of the Year.
"I don't know when they practice against each other how it goes," Crouse said of the Burgesses. "All I know is this is (Annika's) year. Next year is her year, too.
"I can say that of all my kids, all of them represent the school well. But she's in the premiere spot and she wears her brown and white very well. The pressure is on you in that situation; you have to be the best. She handled it and did it."
Burgess, undefeated for two straight regular seasons at No. 2 singles, lost in last year's ECC singles final to Emilie, 7-6 (3), 6-3, the second time the pair met in the ECC tournament with the same result.
This year, the top-seeded Burgess also faced a teammate in the Bears' new No. 2 player, Chloe Slater. In a three and a half-hour ECC championship match played in uncomfortable heat and humidity at Stonington, Burgess survived in three sets to beat a resilient Slater, 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3.
"That was insane," Burgess said. "It was long. It was emotional. It was mentally exhausting and physically exhausting."
Then, Burgess helped lead the Bears into the Class S state championship for the seventh straight season. They fell to Westbrook 5-2.
Burgess, a three-time ECC all-star and repeat All-Area selection, also earned Class S all-state honors this year, finishing 24-3 overall including state tournament play. She reached the third round of the State Open, winning a pair of matches. She is a member of the National Honor Society and is serving this summer as a full-time counselor at Tamarack Tennis Camp in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
Burgess said that she began playing tennis when she was 7 years old and that she and Emilie began playing around the same time.
"She took more of a liking to it earlier. She got really good really fast," Burgess said. "It wasn't until I was in eighth grade or a freshman in high school that I started working really, really hard at it to get better.
"Emilie's just naturally athletic. Having her there always gave me something to work toward."
The two have a younger sister, Margit, who will be in eighth grade this fall. Annika said her younger sister would prefer to play lacrosse when she gets to high school. Emilie Burgess will play at UConn next year. Annika, meanwhile, will attempt to return Stonington to an eighth straight title match, covering the entire careers of her and her sister.
"She was at the top, the leader. She learned very readily and fast," Crouse said of Annika Burgess. "She worked very hard. She did everything I asked of her."
"I've learned a lot every single year," Burgess said. "I love our team."