LINCOLN — Mount St. Charles sophomore Jon Blanchette usually teams with classmate Ethan Guevremont at the No. 1 doubles slot, but he discovered just before stepping on the High Ridge Swim and Tennis Club courts Tuesday afternoon that he wouldn’t.
Head coach Sean McClelland had a promotion of sorts in mind for him, as he had learned earlier in the day that his top singles player, senior Jack Ricci, couldn’t attend school due to illness.
Blanchette more than did his job at No. 4 singles, disposing of Woonsocket High senior Justin Metivier, 6-1, 6-1, but the Villa Novans rebounded with a huge triumph at No. 2 singles before the hosts eventually claimed a 5-2 Division II decision.
“For Jack to be out sick on ‘Match Day,’ he’s got to be really, really hurting,” McClelland stated while matches continued. “It was an impressive win, especially since we didn’t have our full lineup. I told the kids afterward it showed me we have a whole team. It truly was a team win.”
In the end, the top duo of senior Ben Demers and sophomore Matt Saviano gave the Mounties a 3-2 lead after snagging a marathon 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-4 win over the senior tandem of Donny Panyathong and Mike Labreche.
Less than five minutes later, the junior pairing of Matt Medeiros and Eric Melaragno sealed the victory with the fourth point, clinching a 6-1, 6-3 decision over senior Steve Iv and sophomore Kyle Keosykhao.
With the triumph, MSC improved to 6-1 in league action and 6-2 overall. Woonsocket, which had captured its first four contests, fell to 4-4.
“It feels rejuvenating, that’s for sure,” Medeiros noted later. “When you lose a match like we did to Prout (6-1) last Thursday, we wanted to fix the things we did wrong. We wanted get on a roll again.
“Jack was sick, and Coach told us right beforehand that we’d be playing No. 2 doubles; we usually play No. 3,” Melaragno added. “I know I was nervous, because we were moving up. We’re used to playing the (opponent’s) last doubles team, but now we had to pick it up a level.
“The intensity increased, but my serve was landing in a lot, which surprised me. We also both played well at the net.”
The final tally didn’t reveal just how close the contest turned out to be. After Woonsocket senior co-captain Greg Wala leveled a 6-1, 6-1 verdict on fellow senior Matt Ceh-Castillo at No. 1 singles, the Mount’s Guevremont downed junior southpaw Luke Cheever, 6-3, 6-3.
“It was a really good day for me,” Wala explained. “My backhand and backhand slice were really on; my ability to control them stunned me. I had faced Matt before in scrimmages last year, and I know he beat me in straight sets.
“I just kept thinking to myself it was a new day, a new year, and that I had been practicing a lot,” he continued. “I knew I had improved. I felt a little uneasiness at first, but I took the first two games and my confidence just built from there.”
The Mounties regained the lead at 2-1 following Guevremont’s win, but the Novans fought back to tie it once more after senior Ricky Inxi survived a wild 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1 verdict over senior Jake Deslandes.
“After I lost the first set, I took a breath and cleared my head,” Inxi said. “I slowed things down and stopped rushing. Surprisingly, my backhand came through for me better than I thought it would.
“I didn’t know until our third set that we were behind; that’s when I thought, ‘Man, I’ve got to win this! If not, we’re going to lose this match.’”
MSC had other ideas, however. Demers and Saviano did their part, as did Medeiros and Melaragno.
“In our match, you could tell all four players were exhausted entering the third set,” Demers offered. “We just gave each other confidence-builders and fed off each other. We didn’t realize how close the overall match was, but we did know we had to win to help the team.”
Stated Saviano: “I can believe this; we worked so hard to get here. Matt and I were losing games early on because we were making careless mistakes. We just started playing points like we do in practice; we just wanted to knock the ball back over the net and keep it in the right location.”
Woonsocket coach Mike Lemay couldn’t argue with the effort his kids displayed.
“We battled, and the kids worked hard,” he said. “This was a good match for us; it was better than the two previous (respective 6-1 and 5-2 defeats to Chariho and Classical). Our No. 1 doubles team played fantastic. Whenever a match goes three (sets), you know the kids are fighting. We just came up a little short.”