Boys Tennis Ends Season with 17-3 Record

Published in the June 11, 2008 issue of The Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster

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The Nashoba Regional boys' tennis team mastered the art of winning close matches this season, with two consecutive 3-2 victories en route to the Division 2 Central final. Now the Chieftains have a new nemesis: the rain delay.

Top-seeded Nashoba was upset 4-1 by Sutton on Friday in a finals match that was held over two days and in two different venues, thanks to a slippery mist that halted play—and the Chieftains' momentum along with it. On Thursday at Algonquin Regional High School, the Chieftains dug themselves an early hole with second- and third-singles losses, and each doubles team had lost its first set—but both pairs were rallying at the time that play was stopped. Second doubles partners Sam Camp and Dan Piazza had battled through a 9-7 tiebreaker to take their second set, 7-6, and the first-doubles team of Nick Chin and Bobby Savino had played to a 6-6 tie in their second set and led 3-2 in a tiebreaker of their own.

“The momentum was definitely on our side at that point, so to have to stop really hurt us,” said head coach Brenda Mason.

When play resumed the next day, on the indoor courts at the Westborough Tennis and Swim Club, the Chieftains' fortunes changed along with the venue. Camp and Piazza lost their third set 6-2, and Chin and Savino lost their tiebreaker 8-6. Sophomore Brent Walkoff did manage a straight-set win at first singles, but the damage had been done.

It was eerily reminiscent of a year ago, when Quaboag handed Nashoba an early playoff exit in a rain-plagued match that was finished two days after it had begun. Against Sutton, however, the Chieftains had to deal with more than just the delay. Just the experience of playing in a finals match—with officials, reporters and photographers roaming courtside—was a big adjustment. And then there was the change in venue, which not only altered court conditions but also meant that players could not cheer on their teammates from the sidelines—an intangible that almost certainly would have helped the Chieftains' chances for a comeback.

“If you haven't gone through it before, it's really hard to prepare for that kind of environment,” Mason said. “But I was proud of all of them. They kept playing even after the match was over.”

The loss to Sutton was a disappointing end to what had been a stellar season for the Chieftains, who finished with a record of 17-3. Nashoba's only regular-season losses came against Westboro, which went undefeated in the regular season but was upset 3-2 by Wachusett in the Division 1 Central final (interestingly, Westboro led Wachusett 2-1 on Thursday prior to the rain delay).

Although the Chieftains struggled to win close matches last season, the road to the finals this season was paved with 3-2 victories. As the top seed, Nashoba got a bye in the first round of the playoffs, then dispatched Hopedale in the second round, setting up a second meeting with Quaboag.

“We were really looking forward to that rematch,” Mason said. “The boys were really pumped up, no doubt about it.”

The Chieftains emerged on the winning end of a 3-2 score in both cases, with different players stepping up in each situation. Against Hopedale, the three victories came from Walkoff at first singles, Stow junior and team captain Jeff Stefanis at second singles, and Stow senior Ian Stevenson at third singles. Against Quaboag, the wins came from Walkoff, Stefanis, and the first doubles team of Chin and Savino.

Although Stevenson and Piazza will be lost to graduation, Mason is optimistic about the prospects for next year's squad. Walkoff and Stefanis should anchor the group, along with Camp and Stow junior Jeff Stokes, who split time this season between doubles and third singles. Mason is already working with coaches from schools like Quaboag and Sutton to try to fit them into next year's schedule, in hopes of making the 2009 Chieftains even better prepared for what they might encounter in the playoffs.

And yes, Mason is thinking about next year's playoffs. The silver trophy the Chieftains earned this season as runners-up is nice and all, but a trophy of a different color would be even better.

“Next year,” she said, “We're going for gold.”

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239