Disciplined Lord Siblings Hope To Continue Success After Breakout Year
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | August 31, 2017
BLOOMFIELD, CT- The Lord siblings grew up in the New England tennis scene and quickly became stars within it. Bloomfield’s Dayna, Melissa and Matt Lord were all standouts as junior players, and they’ve each grown into successful young adults.
Whether it was winning USTA New England Junior Sectional Championships, sportsmanship awards or an NCAA League or National title, the Lords have seen their share of accomplishments on the court. But the 2016-17 school year was arguably their greatest combined yet, with each reaching new heights even they did not expect.
Melissa, currently beginning her junior at Stanford University, earned her first ITA All-America honors after last season while helping lead her team to a second straight National Championship appearance.
“I’m not even shocked with her,” Matt said. ADVERTISEMENT “She’s always been great on the court and I’m really proud. I think I was more proud than she was to be an All-American.”
After winning the National Championship her freshman season, Melissa came back as a sophomore to individually go 29-6, including 11-4 against ranked opponents. She dominated the competition in both singles and doubles, jumping from the No. 6 singles spot to the No. 2 position.
“Before last season started I played a few individual tournaments and won a tournament, so that brought up my confidence knowing I could compete at higher level,” Melissa said. “Moving up in lineup was a transition, but being next to teammates who were doing same thing and practicing with some of the best players in country definitely helped, and it makes you realize you can compete against them too.”
Melissa capped off her memorable season by taking Stanford’s only point in the championships match against the University of Florida, defeating Josie Kuhlman 6-4, 7-5.
She finished the season individually ranked No. 19 in the nation.
Dayna, the oldest sibling, graduated 3,000 miles away from Brown University in May as the winningest player in the school’s history. She nabbed 182 victories in singles and doubles over her four-year career—mostly at the No. 1 position.
“It hasn’t really sunk in, but when I look back, it’s great that I achieved something no other player has done,” Dayna said. “It wasn’t expected, it was just a matter of me competing and playing well and putting my heart and soul on court.”
“I wasn’t expecting to play No. 1 coming in and it was more of a leadership role I took on, and I embraced it,” she added. “I loved playing in that high spot, narrowing down and focusing, and capitalizing on important moments and opportunities. I was very privileged to be in that place on the team and I knew I was going to have to perform at high level.”
Dayna finished her storied career by receiving her fourth First-Team All-Ivy selection and earning the Marjorie Brown Smith Award for the outstanding female varsity athlete of the year. She is the only tennis player to win the award since it’s inception in 1982.
“This was a huge accomplishment and a great way to finish Brown career. It was nice to have all my hard work acknowledged,” she said. “It was not just an individual effort, but a team effort with all the people helping me and supporting me, so this is for them.”
And one of those people is longtime coach Phil Gordon, who raised Dayna and her siblings in tennis.
“He is basically family to us,” Melissa said. “We saw him every day when we were young and I used to accidentally call him dad.”
Both Gordon and their parents really honed in on discipline and respect on the court—characteristics that have shaped the Lords into the extraordinary people and tennis players they have become.
“I had the complete support of their parents, and they gave me the idea that these kids are disciplined and are for real. Parents that wander around and go from coach to coach, it’s difficult to set course for those kids and develop them,” Gordon said. “It was pleasant to work with them, and they saw the success they started having and wanted more, so I gave them more.”
Gordon even went as far as taking them running up ski slopes to increase stamina and focus.
He was there through their critical development years both on and off the court. After losing their mom in 2010, he was a source of support for all three.
“I’m very proud of them. I feel like I’ve done my job and they are great kids. I promised their mom I’d see them through, and she’s looking down smiling,” Gordon said.
“We definitely wouldn’t be the people we are today without Mr. Phil and what he did for us,” Melissa said. “I used to think he was hard, but being coachable and disciplined are important at every age, and they are skills everyone should learn.”
David Zeutas-Broer has witnessed the growth and development of all three siblings over the years as USTA New England Player Development Manager.
“I have had the privilege of being part of the Lords’ tennis journey as each of them established themselves as shining stars in New England and on the national junior circuit” he said. “They are fantastic young adults now who I am sure will be great ambassadors of our sport as they go into the next exciting phases of their lives.”
Matt, the youngest of the three, continued the Division I trend last year. He committed to play at the University of Virginia where he just began his freshman year.
“They have a great tennis team, people and coaches. I couldn’t go wrong here. I felt like I belonged and was already part of the school when I visited,” Matt said.
Matt had a relatively quiet senior year once he committed, both literally and figuratively. He was the only sibling left in the house for the second year, and he reduced the number of tournaments he played, relaxing and focusing on his future.
“It’s been lonely in the house and I miss them a lot, but we keep in touch and I always want them to do well,” Matt said. “Watching both of them grow up and who they are, they’ve been an inspiration, and make me want to compete harder and be better.”
“Melissa and I used to always beat up on Matt, and now it’s just the opposite. It’s really nice to see his development as player,” Dayna said.
It’s no secret, the siblings are close. From young kids to now, they’ve valued each other as friends and as hitting partners and have all grown with one another.
“It’s made a huge difference having them,” Melissa said. “I didn’t realize it at first, but having such great players so accessible right in your back yard makes it so much easier. We all take it seriously but not personally when we play and want to improve each other’s games.”
Matt has truly benefitted from his exemplary role models, becoming one of the most approachable faces on the junior circuit. This past spring, he was selected to the USTA Junior Leadership Team, which recognizes the finest American junior tennis players who exhibit leadership, sportsmanship and character on and off the court.
“I had no idea that was coming but it was pretty cool and I’m very happy I got it,” Matt said.
His on-court highlights from the 2016-17 year include winning a National L2 tournament in singles at Yale and earning a Silver Ball in doubles at Winter Nationals.
Matt will be looking this year to stay disciplined in college both in the classroom and on the court.
Melissa is eager to take Stanford team back to a third consecutive National Championship appearance as one of this year’s team leaders.
Shortly after graduation, Dayna moved to New York City to focus on her career.
“The thing I’m most proud of about them is seeing them succeed,” Dayna said. “I was the leader and set the example, and it makes me happy to watch them do well. A win for them is a win for me. I hope they can go on to play professionally and I can continue to watch them grow and improve.”