Boys Tennis, Sports, Spring Sports

Boys Tennis Upsets Groton to Win Fourth NEITA Championships Since 2011

At sixth singles, Adam Mofid ’20 battled to win his third set after falling in the second to win the 3-3 tiebreaker and secure the championship for Andover. After Andover had fallen in the doubles point and two singles games and won in fourth singles, the team needed to win all three remaining singles matches. Second seed Hayden Gura ’20 and third seed Aidan Burt ’21 won their matches in straight sets, leaving the deciding match to Mofid, who won 6-4, 2-6, and 6-4.

This victory won the New England Interscholastic Tennis Association (Neita) Class A Championship title for Andover Varsity Boys Tennis with a score of 4-3 in the finals against Groton on Sunday. Following this win, Andover defeated Phillips Exeter Academy 7-0 in its Andover/Exeter match on Wednesday.

Captain and first seed Chase Denholm ’18 said, “In the finals, Adam was really consistent. I think that really established the momentum for the end of the match because he just hung in there point by point and never gave up. He was pretty fired up. I think it was especially hard for him given the crowd that [Groton] had, so I was really impressed with his response to that. He was just getting to it and using the energy from the crowd to build on his game and it was really clutch because he didn’t miss the important points at all. He just really stuck with it.”

During his match, Mofid was questioned for some of his calls — which turned out to be accurate — but he stuck with them, remained determined, and ended up winning his three-setter. In Mofid’s final set, the intensity was high, with back-and-forth play and a massive crowd, according to Burt and Gura.

“In the third match point, Adam left a ball short and [his opponent] tried to come in and take it out of the air and he hit it wide, and Adam called it out. This ball was out by maybe an inch, and from Groton’s point of view, you can’t see the sideline since it was out in the alley, so they all thought he was a cheater but he didn’t cheat because the coaches confirmed it was out. The last point was just really intense,” said Burt.

Gura said, “Adam had just lost the second set after winning the first set, so he [was] in the third set, and it was two all and it kept battling back and forth like 2-2, 3-2, 3-3 and then they had a very long game at 4-4 where there were some questionable calls. There was a lot of uncertainty. I think overall it was just a very important match because I think there were around 200 people watching the match, and our team was cheering, and Groton’s fans were cheering. I just remember it was a real grind.”

Despite having a large crowd cheering for the team’s opponents, Mofid, in addition to Andover’s other singles players, demonstrated incredible focus and determination in his match, according to Head Coach Greg Wilkin.

Wilkin wrote in an email to The Phillipian, “Hayden, Aidan, and Nash [Johnson ’20] showed tremendous focus and concentration in the face of rabid, loud cheering from the Groton home crowd. While over a hundred spectators cheered the Groton player on, Adam fed off the admiring support of his teammates and a group of faithful Andover parents. He showed real grit in that situation.”

On Saturday, Andover beat Kingswood-Oxford 4-1 and Choate 4-0 in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the tournament, respectively. According to Denholm and Burt, it was important that the team won the doubles point in both of the matches.

“The first two matches we definitely did well in the doubles. Establishing the doubles point against both KO [Kingswood-Oxford] and Choate helped set the tone for both of those matches in terms of singles play. I think that Nash and I really upped our level in those two matches. It was fun for us to finally reach the level of play that we wanted to play at this whole season,” said Denholm.

Burt said, “First two matches we won both pretty decisively. We also won the doubles point in both those matches, which is really crucial in these games, so also figuring out who are opponents are going to be and the advice we need to give during the doubles matches really helps during singles.”

Andover had not played Kingswood-Oxford in the regular season before, so the players were not familiar with their opponents heading into the game. This uncertainty created a mental challenge, but Andover remained confident, according to Gura and Denholm.

“Not playing Kingswood-Oxford changed because nobody really knew their players, and going into my match I know I was a little bit nervous because I didn’t know how my player played. I ended up winning, but it was a tougher mental start. I started off badly because I didn’t really know what to do. I didn’t know what was better in his game and what was worse,” said Gura.

Denholm said, “We definitely were pretty confident going in. I think we knew we had a good chance at pulling it out based on how [Kingswood-Oxford has] done against other teams. Obviously a lot of the teams in these playoffs, we don’t know what to expect, but if we just go out playing our games, we’re pretty confident in what we can do.”

In the Choate match, Andover beat Choate 4-3 earlier on in the season, so the team knew the players it was going to face. In the previous faceoff,  Denholm did not play due to injury, but during the tournament he returned so the rest of the players moved down a seed. This helped them more in their matches on Saturday, since they not only played lower seed opponents but could also learn about their game from teammates who played them previously, according to Gura and Denholm.

Gura said, “Playing Choate earlier on in the season, we knew how their players played, especially because we had this weird thing against them was that earlier on in the season. We didn’t have our one player but this time we did, so we played different players. This time we got to tell the other person what went wrong and what went well against certain players. I played someone who Nash had played and Nash told me about his game which helped me in the end with winning against him. Everybody had a good idea about how the other players played.”

“I missed the [previous] Choate match, so I think it eased up a little pressure against Choate knowing that I was in the lineup and everybody else was playing a spot down than they did in regular season. We didn’t take it very lightly because Choate knocked us out [4-1 in the] first round last year, so we knew what they were capable of since we beat them in the regular season last year as well. We went out with strong doubles play. We truly established the momentum for the match, and singles just carried out, and we played really well against them I think,” said Denholm.

Following its Neita Championship win, Andover, despite missing its typical first, fifth and sixth seed players, swept Exeter 7-0 in the annual Andover/Exeter match.

Coach Wilkin wrote, “We [were] without Chase, [fifth seed]  Sean [Kralik ’19] [and Adam], so we [needed] to improvise in doubles and rise to the challenge in singles. Our earlier 7-0 score against Exeter does not reflect the toughness of the Exeter squad.”

Andover will send multiple players to Choate for the singles Class-A draw of the New England Prep School Invitational Tennis Tournament (Nepsitt) on Saturday to close out the season.

May 25, 2018