Photo: The 2015 season Belmont High Boys’ Tennis team.
It wasn’t a season the Belmont High School Boys’ Tennis had been hoping for.
After making the team tennis post season for the past four years, the Marauders was caught in the duel predicament of being in the midst of a rebuilding year – depending on athletes who come from other sports – while being in the league in which some of the best tennis players in the state happen to reside.
And while the team did stride off the courts at the new Wilmington High School Wednesday, May 20, with a convincing 5-0 victory over the Wildcats, the hope for a fifth consecutive playoff invite didn’t materialize as the team finished the season at 6-10.
While there were a number of individual highlights in 2015 – senior Enrique Massidda came back from a set down to Concord-Carlise’s Cody Machen, 2-6, 6-0, 7-5, to win his first-round match in the North individual tennis tournament this month – Belmont still found it hard to find their game against the powerhouse squads including Lexington and Winchester which have players heading to Div. 1 college and university programs.
Leading Belmont was Massidda (who took up rowing with the Arlington-Belmont Crew club this past fall), senior Ben Lazenby who is best known for his play on the soccer pitch and basketball court, second singles Caleb Harris, junior singles/doubles Grant Stievater who traded in his bat and glove for a racket this year, and this season’s captains, double specialists Cheng Qin and senior Amar Fernald.
On the doubles court, underclassmen sophomore Andrew Reppucci and frosh Jackson Luce – who were selected to compete in the individual doubles North playoffs – will bring a year’s worth of varsity experience to the courts next year, anchoring the team.
The senior leadership showed up in the final match with the top-ranked and defending state champions Lexington held in Belmont on May 14, the Marauders made life a little more difficult then what the number 1 seed in this year’s tournament was expecting. Lazenby and Stievater extended rallies and won points to take five and four games respectively. Third singles Fernald lost 6-4 in both sets while second doubles Reppucci and Luce fought hard in a 6-1, 6-3 defeat.
Not that the entire year was without its moments as Belmont was a solid mid-level squad, overpowering teams such as Stoneham, Watertown, Woburn (May 6), Wakefield (May 13) and Wilmington by identical 5-0 victories as the three singles matches and pair of doubles barely lost a game.
And not all highlights were strictly on the court. In a league where looking professional is the norm among the top teams, Stievater decided the Marauders should set the standard in high-quality apparel.
“I came from the baseball team and they’re known for their gear so I thought if I’m playing tennis, you might as well go all out and get the best you can,” said Stievater.
Working with Gerry Dickhaut, owner of Champions Sporting Goods in Belmont Center, Stievater organized the selection of the matching caps, sweatshirts, towels and even Belmont “B” socks to outfit the team at a price everyone agreed was a fair expense.
“[Dickhaut] gave us a discount and allowed us to get all the embroidery we wanted,” said Stievater.
“It feels nice to have something you do actually impact the team and have everyone like it. We really worked hard this year so it’s a nice little thing we get to do for ourselves,” he said.