- Written by Administrator
- Published: 19 June 2013
Having their championship match with Winchester canceled twice last week because of the elements, the Dragons used that extra time to practice and it certainly paid off with a 3-2 win over the Sachems for the Massachusetts Division II State tennis title at Rahanis Park in Burlington on Saturday afternoon.
Winning its first State title since 1994 was the result of hard work by all members of the team. But it was the incredible effort by freshman star Eric Seewald at No. 1 singles that aced the victory for the Dragons.
The win gives Duxbury the notable achievement of going 21-2 in State championship games over the past decade in nine different sports.
Duxbury jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to the efforts of No. 3 singles player Fred Clifford, who Coach John Bunar is always quick to label “the best No. 3 singles player in the state.” On Saturday that moniker seemed to fit, as the sophomore wiped out Winchester’s Nick McIntyre, 6-0/6-1, to get the Dragons off and rolling.
Duxbury junior Mike Melampy didn’t need much more time than Clifford, as he defeated senior Conor Lucey, 6-1/6-3, to put the Dragons ahead 2-0.
“Melampy had been playing out of his mind the previous week,” said Bunar. “So I wasn’t really worried at all about his match and Clifford’s (both of whom were undefeated in match play this year).”
Despite being ahead by two games, it appeared it would be a struggle for Duxbury to put a third victory in the win column when the Dragons’ No. 2 doubles tandem lost 6-4/6-1. Senior captain Dan Coakley was carrying the load for Duxbury, as his regular playing partner, senior captain Dan McHugh, was in Ireland on a family trip that had been planned after the originally scheduled finals. Sophomore Harry Sohmer took McHugh’s place and held his own in the first set before both players faltered in the second.
The pressure was now on Duxbury’s first doubles team of seniors Will Triebel and Will Kingsbury, especially when news filtered out that No. 1 singles player Eric Seewald was having an uncharac- teristic bad first set.
Each game was going down to the wire, as the Winchester duo of Pat Hayes and Yinian Tang battled back from a 6-5 deficit to force a tie-breaker that they won 7-5. With their backs to the wall, the Will Brothers turned things around in the second set and pulled out a 7-5 second-set win to tie their match at 1-1.
With two matches left the Dragons were ahead 2-1 and only needed to win one to cap- ture the title.
The attention turned to Seewald, who had all sorts of trouble shaking off the nervousness that came with playing No. 1 on the big stage of team tennis.
When play resumed after Seewald adsorbed a 6-1 defeat at the hands of Winchester’s No. 1 Jake Criss, the fresh- man looked far more relaxed as he regained his composure and jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. Like he had flicked a switch, Seewald was serving and returning laser beams at Criss that the Sachem couldn’t handle. The speed with which Seewald was hitting was start- ing to take its toll on Criss, who had no answer how to stem the tide.
The 3-0 lead quickly turned to a 6-0 second-set win and Criss was in shock at the turn in developments.
“I’m sure it wasn’t Seewald being nervous, as much as it was not having his stroke back. He hadn’t had the big ball for about a week going into the match. It just took a good run and a good sweat for him to get the ball back. He was starting to see the ball better in the second set and when that started happening I knew the match was over.” said Bunar.
Seewald was now in full command as the third set began, and Criss knew it. His blistering serves and forehands had Criss running all over the court and his teammates could sense the end was coming quickly.
Once again the freshman jumped out to a 3-0 lead, and continued to torture Criss with perfectly placed forehands to the corners that required Criss to show what athleticism he had left in his tank. It apparently wasn’t much as play was stopped and Criss was given a five-minute medical timeout to take care of a cramp in his right forearm.
After the break ended, Criss looked none the worse, as he split the next two games with Seewald to trail 4-1. It was only a matter of time be- fore Duxbury captured the crown, and Seewald didn’t let up, blasting away with repeat- ed forehands and serves that sent Criss grasping for his calf as he cramped up again in the final points of his 6-1 loss.
Seewald had little explanation other than rookie jitters for his first-set defeat.
“It’s the first time I ever played team tennis, so I guess it was just a case of nerves getting to me,” said the frosh. “Before that first set my knees were shaking. But after that first set I figured I had nothing to lose, so just go out there and hit the ball hard and keep it in the court. Criss was tough and is very good. He had some of the best ground strokes of any- one I have played this year.”
While Bunar had been optimistic all season long that his Dragons would be near the top, this win confirmed what one of the captains had told Bunar during the pre-season after seeing the level of new talent that came out for the team.
“We had some good players coming in and one of my captains said to me I think we can win it this year coach. His words were in my head the whole season and guided every decision I made this year.
Whether it was after a match, or after school I knew if these kids put in the time they could do it.”
And apparently they did put in plenty of extra time with the assistance of former DHS tennis star Peter Muncy, who spent countless hours scouting, prepping, and practicing with team members to get ready for the tournament.
“Peter gave us plenty of time from his busy schedule and provided us with tremendous leadership and play on the court. It made a huge difference in making our single players what they were in the tournament.”
Bunar also wanted to praise the work of Athletic Director Thom Holdgate who he feels is responsible for Duxbury teams being so prepared when they enter the post-season.
“He’s the best AD in the state,” stated Bunar.