The Mount St. Charles Academy boysâ€™ tennis team tells everyone whoâ€™s No. 1 as the Mounties pose with their championship medals and plaque after defeating Classical, 4-2, in the Division II state title match on Saturday afternoon at Slater Park. PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN
PAWTUCKET â€” Mount St. Charles junior Mike Doody had just suffered a lopsided 6-1, 6-1 loss to Classical High sophomore Austen Clark at the top singles spot, but he didn't dwell on it.
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Seconds after his individual match had ended, he grabbed his gear from one section of Slater Park's Mike Kenny Courts at mid-afternoon Saturday and hustled to the other to catch a glimpse of his teammates' tilts.
â€śThis is hard,â€ť he sighed while watching the Mount's second and third doubles' pairs. â€śWhen I'm playing, I can control what I'm doing. Watching them, I feel helpless. I can't do anything about it.â€ť
With each and every shot gone awry, Doody winced, as did his brethren.
In the end, however, there would be plenty to celebrate.
With top-seeded MSC holding an ever-so-close 3-2 lead, the No. 3 tandem of senior Matt Medeiros and sophomore Mitch McCoy somehow survived the battle provided by the junior duo of Devon Callanan and Billy O'Gara, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 7-6 (0), and that earned the clinching point.
Yes, the Mounties had snared their second straight championship at this R.I. Division II Team Tournament, this time with a most satisfying 4-2 triumph over the gritty Purple. That's something they hadn't accomplished since the 1990-91 campaigns.
More impressively, they closed the season with a perfect 14-0 record.
â€śThis feels awesome; this is gratifying,â€ť smiled head coach Sean McClelland after the awards ceremony, one in which his boys joyously accepted their gold medals and title plaque. â€śI feel fulfilled, and I know the kids do, too. It was super close, just as I had expected, and that's what a state final should be.â€ť
â€śI didn't expect anything less,â€ť he added. â€śThe first time we played them, we were down, 3-2, but came back to clinch it. You knew it would be tight, especially against a team like Classical.â€ť
The Purple fell to 12-2 overall.
In that deciding match, Medeiros and McCoy held a scant 5-4 third-set lead before allowing their foes to come back and force the tiebreaker on Doubles Court No. 3. Amazingly, that twosome manufactured seven straight points, with Medeiros mustering five with overhead winners at or near the net, to initiate the frenzy.
â€śI knew we were ahead, so I was thinking, 'I really want to clinch this NOW!'â€ť Medeiros chuckled. â€śThe No. 2 doubles (junior Jake Sutherland and freshman Paul Resende) was still playing next to us, and I knew that was close. I knew they were exhausted because we were, too, not just physically but mentally.â€ť
Offered McCoy: â€śI kept thinking I had to win it for Matt because he's heading off to college next year, and I wanted him to have a great memory.â€ť
Does he ever!
â€śI'm exhausted; my legs actually started to shake out there out of a combination of nerves and being so tired,â€ť stated Medeiros, a tri-captain with senior Travis Connolly and Matt Ceh Castillo. â€śIt was all about the drive to win. When you the prize within your grasp, you just dig deeper. You kind of put your emotions and physical state aside and take care of business.â€ť
That's exactly what the top doubles pairing of juniors Ethan Guevremont and Jon Blanchette did from the start. Courtesy of an elementary 6-0, 6-0 pasting of seniors Jerry Wan and Will Raff, it not only gave the Mounties a 1-0 lead but secured its unbeaten campaign (14-0).
It didn't last long, as sophomore Austen Clark dismissed Doody to knot it at 1-1, but Connolly mustered a 6-1, 6-2 verdict over sophomore Warshay at No. 4 singles to give MSC its second point.
â€śThe last time we played, it went to a third set, and I didn't want that here,â€ť Connolly claimed. â€śI knew his playing style, so I knew that as long as I was consistent and returned the ball, I could wear him down. I'd bring him to the net and hit a passing shot; that worked pretty well.â€ť
The good news for the Mount: Ceh Castillo mustered a superb outing against junior Colin Gui at the No. 2 spot, though eventually surrendered a tough 6-4, 7-6 (4) defeat. He had trailed Gui, 4-0, in that tiebreaker, but managed four straight points to get back into it.
Classical â€“ with the human backboard Gui returning everything in sight â€“ nevertheless had tied it at 2-all.
Then came junior Matt Saviano, who rallied down the stretch to grab a 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 victory over classmate Joe Zurier at No. 3.
â€śI just heard he was unbeaten; I didn't know that,â€ť Saviano conveyed immediately after his contest. â€śIt's a great win for me. I had to come back in this one. The key was I had noticed (the first time around two weeks ago) that he had a weak backhand, so I tried to manipulate that. He was getting a lot of balls back in the first set, but not so many in the second and third.
â€śThis feels great because last year, I played second doubles,â€ť he continued. â€śTo bring us to within one playing third singles, it's fantastic. I mean, this is the biggest stage for Rhode Island high school tennis. I didn't know if I could come out and do it, but I'm glad I did!â€ť
McClelland mentioned Medeiros had been a team member for four years, and that â€“ as a freshman â€“ he couldn't even conduct a rally.
â€śHere he and Mitch were playing in the biggest match of their high school careers, and they pulled it out,â€ť he said. â€śNow we're the two-time defending champions. It's unreal. We were really fortunate to have Travis and Matt (Saviano) pull out the stops in their matches. They both played their best matches of the season, and picked a good time to do that.
â€śI was figuring we'd have to win all three doubles, and then have one or two of the singles guys come up big for us,â€ť he added. â€śLast time, we took only one singles match, so we wanted an insurance point from those guys.â€ť
Long after it had ended, Medeiros admitted he was still trying to catch his breath.
â€śThere are no words to describe this but excitement and relief,â€ť he grinned. â€śThis is truly unbelievable. I'm so glad because we've worked so hard.â€ť