As the end of the season nears, the Andover Boys Tennis team played its three toughest opponents: Milton, Choate, and Exeter. Unfortunately, they lost all three to make their record heading into interschols 4 wins and 6 losses. It started on Friday when the interscholastic champions, Milton, traveled to the Andover courts. Again this team looks to be one of the best in New England and they showed their skill by handily beating Andover in all three doubles matches. Their captain, and team leader, is Ned Samuelson who is ranked in the top 20 players nationwide. His strong play at #1 doubles helped Milton take the early 1-0 lead. At #1 singles Michael Li ’06 had to play Samuelson. Despite a strong effort, Li was quickly dispatched with 6-0, 6-0. The next match to finish was Russel Dykema ’04 at #2 who also lost by a somewhat large margin. Andover, now down 3-0, turned to John Weigel ’05, Daniel Wagman ’06, Adam Draper ’04, and Ben Grant ’05 to make a run and hopefully pull out the win. Unfortunately, the match was called after Weigel lost a tough match to a very bad sport at #4. However, Wagman, Draper, and Grant all had split sets and potentially could have won making the final score very close. This is a large improvement from their 7-0 loss last season. The following day Andover took the long trek to Choate. The three hour drive affected the boys, making them get off to a sluggish start in the doubles. Throughout the season, Andover has had troubles winning the doubles point. This happened again on Saturday and it put Andover in 1-0 deficit early, affecting their confidence. This led to Andover getting slaughtered in the singles matches. Of course, Li won at #1 singles in a hotly contested match with a good retriever who hit every shot with intense topspin. In the third set tie-breaker, Li was down 9-6 and on the verge of losing. However, Li dug deep and won 11-9 in the tie-breaker, using his extensive match experience to push him past his opponent. The final score with Choate was 6-1 in their favor. After the unfortunate loss vs. Choate, Andover tried to redeem themselves last Wednesday against their bitter rivals, Exeter. It was a wind free day, but the 90 degree weather not only made the boys go through shirts like Seniors go through water guns, but it wore them out quickly. In the regular season when it counted, the big blue wiped the smug smiles off of Exeter’s faces and beat them 5-2. This time, however, at Andover’s home courts, it was a different outcome. Andover won the match at Exeter last time because they won the crucial doubles point. This time though was a different story. Andover was caught off guard by the changes in teams that Exeter made, putting one of their better players at #3 doubles and putting two solid players at #2. Both teams ended up losing 8-4. The first match to finish was Michael Li. His opponent, the Central Mass. Champion, came at Li with a different strategy this time, forcing Li to hit out of his comfort zone. This, doubled with a recent groin injury, resulted in a 6-1, 6-2 loss. Andover came back though with a strong win from Weigel at #4, 6-1, 6-2. Exeter then retaliated with a win at #3 from Nick Day who beat Wagman 6-3, 6-3. Wagman’s loss put pressure on the remaining three matches of Dykema, Draper, and Grant. Despite being down 3-1, their prospects weren’t too bad. When Dykema finally won at #2 against an arrogant Exeter player 6-3, 6-4, the match got even more heated. Andover and Exeter players alike started gathering around the two courts of Draper and Grant, cheering their teammates on. With Grant having split sets against a player he was previously pulverized by, all eyes were on Draper. After having lost the first set 7-6 in a close tie-breaker and being down 5-4 in the second set, Draper made a run. By hitting deep, heavy forehands, Draper brought the match to 5-5. In the end, it came down to who was less tired. Draper’s failure to move his opponent around the court resulted in the Exeter opponent being more quick on his feet and able to steal the second set and the match 7-6, 7-5. Despite the loss, Draper’s good play was noted by all. Eventually, with Exeter winning 4-2, Grant’s match was called off. Even though Andover had a tough week against Milton, Choate, and Exeter, they think they will do well in Interschols this weekend. The Andover Boys’ Tennis team is sure that whoever their first round opponent is, win or lose, won’t have an easy time.
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