Despite a lackluster 5-6 record, Andover Boys Tennis has bounced back from injury and incomplete lineups to cruise to a three game winning streak, beating out the 2015 New England Interscholastic Tennis Association (NEITA) Champion Phillips Exeter Academy 4-2 on Wednesday. This turnaround and revamped energy can be attributed to the leadership of Captain Michael Huang ’15.
“We became more confident as the season went on. At first we were tentative in matches, so taking singles matches was tough. As a team, we learned how to push other teams to their limits and win matches by sheer willpower,” wrote Huang in an email to The Phillipian.
Huang has been climbing the Varsity ladder since his Lower year. He entered the team as sixth seed, played in the third spot as an Upper and currently resides at second. Huang has made his way to the top with a very unique style of gameplay that he varies based on the strengths and weaknesses of his opponents.
Newcomer and sixth seed Chase Denholm ’18 said, “You don’t see many players who approach the game with his strategy, and that’s really what sets him apart. Not many players just try new things in the middle of a big point or go for things like he does.”
Fourth seed Jonathan Jow ’16 said, “[Huang] brings a lot of variety in terms of his shots. He can hit a really wide range of shots. Slices, tops, huge amounts of spin – he’s just a really crafty player. He plays to his opponents’ weaknesses. Most people at this level only focus on one aspect of the game, like consistency or power. [Huang] can hit everything: he has great lobs, great drop shots, crazy touch, and he tailors his game to beat the opponent that he’s playing.”
Huang has used his experience as the Andover Boys Squash Captain to help him build the tennis team’s chemistry between rookies and veterans. With Denholm, Justin Curtis ’15 and Nolan Crawford ’15 as new additions on the team, Huang made sure that everyone was equally comfortable in the close knit group.
“I have had Huang as a Captain for two seasons with squash and one for tennis. He has gone out of his way to get to know each and every teammate and, by doing so, helps to strengthen the team’s camaraderie. He is a leader both on and off the court,” said Curtis.
Denholm said, “[Huang] was always very welcoming, especially that first week of preseason training in California. He worked hard to get the new faces into the group and helped us get to know each other, which helped a lot. Throughout the season, he’s been very supportive. He’s definitely encouraged us to support our teammates a lot more.”
Now that the team has its full lineup, it must build upon this camaraderie to emerge victorious at the New England Prep School Invitational Tennis Tournament (NEPSITT). Although big wins are needed to compensate the slow start to the season, Huang’s last three seasons have reflected his prowess and leadership on the court.
Huang said, “I’m really happy with my tennis career at Andover. I went undefeated Lower year, and we won New Englands. Upper year, we won once again. This year was tough, but I’m sure Andover will continue its dominance in the coming years. Beating Exeter ended our season on a really high note.”