After dropping the first set 3-6 against Hotchkiss in the finals of the Class A New England Championships on Saturday and fighting back to win the second set 6-3, Co-Captain Henry Kalb ’14 stepped up to the baseline in the third set, leading 5-1.
He fired off a serve and his signature blazing forehand to close out the match, giving Andover Boys Tennis its fourth point needed to defeat Hotchkiss, securing the title of New England Champions for the second year in a row.
Andover faced Number 1 seed Milton in the first round of the tournament on Saturday coming off positive momentum from its 7-0 sweep over Andover High School last Friday.
The team went up a quick 1-0 lead thanks to doubles wins on Court 3. William Way ’17 and Jonathan Jow ’16 defeating their opponent 8-1, and Co-Captain James Heaney ’14 and Chris Kralik ’16 won 9-7 at Number 1 doubles.
“We took the doubles point very fast. We had a lot of energy in the beginning and were very aggressive at net. We moved in a lot, and kept pushing our opponents,” said Kralik.
Michael Huang ’15 was next to nab a win for Andover, defeating his opponent 6-1, 6-1 at Number 3 singles. Jow followed on Court 6 with a 6-4, 6-4 win, and Way won at Number 5 singles 7-6, 6-3, deciding Andover’s 4-0 win over Milton.
Andover went on to face Phillips Exeter Academy in the semifinals, determined to avenge its prior 4-3 loss to Exeter earlier in the season.
Andover dominated at doubles, only dropping three games total, with wins on Courts 1 and 2, with scores of 8-2 and 8-1 respectively.
“Unlike last time we faced Exeter, we were all healthy and playing really well with confidence. We hit our stride,” said Kalb.
Andover overpowered Exeter in singles, giving up a mere six games total in decisive wins on Court 2 (6-2, 6-0), Court 4 (6-1 ,6-1) and Court 6 (6-2, 6-0), putting Andover on top 4-0 and sending the team to the finals.
“All of us kept each other going and kept up the positive momentum from doubles. We looked down to each others courts to cheer the team on and motivate each other to keep winning,” said Heaney.
Andover met Hotchkiss in the finals on Sunday, the same team it faced in the finals of last year’s New England Championships.
After making the three-hour trek, the team arrived with little time to warm up before playing doubles.
Andover struggled to find its groove, dropping the doubles point after close 8-6 losses on Courts 1 and 2.
“We hadn’t warmed up our shots, so we were much more inconsistent than usual in doubles. We were playing tentatively, and Hotchkiss took advantage of that,” said Kalb.
Andover regrouped and regained its energy after a rousing pep talk from Kalb, where he reminded his teammates that Andover had also lost the doubles point in last year’s Championships and still emerged victorious.
Andover bounced back and won the first set on every court in singles, putting the pressure on Hotchkiss.
Heaney was first to close out a decisive 6-1, 6-0 win.
“I was really motivated to win in order to keep spurring my other teammates on in their matches. I stayed steady and hit the ball deep and hard to keep my opponent from being able to implant his aggressive game,” said Heaney.
Kralik followed suit with a 6-1, 6-2 win. Motivated after such a strong showing on Courts 1 and 2, Jow pulled out a close second set to win 7-1, 7-6 (4), and Kalb dug deep to finish off a grueling three-set match.
The team stormed the court in celebration, elated having achieved its ultimate goal of preserving its title as reigning New England Champions.
“It’s amazing to win two years in a row. I’m very proud of how far the team has come, and it’s a great way to go out my Senior year,” said Kalb, who finished the season undefeated in singles.
Andover faced Exeter again on Wednesday, defeating the team decisively 6-1 after sweeping doubles and overwhelming Exeter at 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 singles. This win concluded the season, setting Andover’s record at 10-2.
“We were more motivated than ever to try hard and stay focused on the match because we wanted to end our season on a high note. We did a great job of not feeling too comfortable after winning this weekend and played confidently,” said Heaney.
Individual players from the team will compete in the NEPSITT Tournament this weekend; Heaney and Kralik will compete in the Number 1 and Number 2 singles bracket, and Way and Jow will represent the team at Number 1 doubles.