This was the year the Dragons were supposed to put an end to Hingham’s dominance in Patriot League tennis. It hasn’t officially happened, but the Harbormen fired the first shot in this annual confrontation and served notice the league title still has to go through Hingham.
Brimming with confidence and a 7-0 record that included six 5-0 shutouts, the Dragons figured this was their day when they traveled to Hingham on Friday afternoon to battle the undefeated Harbormen.
The defending DII State champs came into the match riding a 34-match winning streak and when the afternoon had ended it was at 35, as they rallied from a 0-2 deficit to remain unbeaten with a 3-2 victory, while also pinning the Dragons with their first loss of the year.
Coach John Bunar has long believed that Duxbury has one of the best one-two combinations of singles players around in Trinity-bound senior Brayden Minahan at No. 1 and junior Peter Muncey at No. 2.
They both showed they were up for the challenge and had plenty of time to watch their teammates try to put the Harbormen away.
Minahan breezed through a 6-1/6-0 win over Hingham’s Woody Roman at No. 1 singles, while Muncey blanked Rohan Rau at No. 2 singles 6-0/6-0.
As easy as singles appeared for Duxbury, doubles was much the same for Hingham, as Ryan Fuji and Josh Port at No. 1 doubles remained undefeated with a 3-6/3-6 win over Eric Schneider and Kevin Coakley, while Will Triebel and Willy Kingsbury suffered a 2-6/3-6 loss at No. 2 doubles to Matt Port and Sam Krimholty that notched the match at 2-2.
All the attention now turned to the No. 3 singles match, where Duxbury’s Conor O’Keefe and Hingham’s Will Donovan would decide who the temporary king in Patriot League tennis was.
O’Keefe struck first with a 6-4 first-set win, putting a hopeful spin on the Dragons’ chances, only to see Donovan come back in the second set with a 5-2 lead that quickly evaporated when O’Keefe closed to within 5-4.
With Donovan pulling out the winning game after being ahead 30-40, the match was now tied at one set each.
Wind was playing an important part for both players, as twice shots barely crossed the net only to bounce back over, with each player being hesitant to reach across the net.
The match had the crowd on edge, as it remained 3-3 after six games. With the game at deuce in the seventh game, Donovan went all in and then buried a shot deep into the back corner on a second serve to go ahead 4-3.
The tide now turned, as Donovan won the next two games with some high lobs into the wind and long volleys that tested O’Keefe’s patience.
“The third set in a 2-2 tie has been killing us with them for the past few years,” said Bunar. “They are deeper and better, but we have the power at the top. We’ve got a one-two punch as good as anyone in the state, but we‘re just not backing it up with a win somewhere else. Conor played well. He just got beat. It hurt to lose today and we have to beat them at our place. It’s just that simple.”