LINCOLN â Mount St. Charles sophomore Jon Blanchette usually teams with classmate Ethan Guevremont at the No. 1 doubles slot, but he discovered just before stepping on the High Ridge Swim and Tennis Club courts Tuesday afternoon that he wouldnât.
Head coach Sean McClelland had a promotion of sorts in mind for him, as he had learned earlier in the day that his top singles player, senior Jack Ricci, couldnât attend school due to illness.
Blanchette more than did his job at No. 4 singles, disposing of Woonsocket High senior Justin Metivier, 6-1, 6-1, but the Villa Novans rebounded with a huge triumph at No. 2 singles before the hosts eventually claimed a 5-2 Division II decision.
âFor Jack to be out sick on âMatch Day,â heâs got to be really, really hurting,â McClelland stated while matches continued. âIt was an impressive win, especially since we didnât have our full lineup. I told the kids afterward it showed me we have a whole team. It truly was a team win.â
In the end, the top duo of senior Ben Demers and sophomore Matt Saviano gave the Mounties a 3-2 lead after snagging a marathon 7-6 (1), 5-7, 6-4 win over the senior tandem of Donny Panyathong and Mike Labreche.
Less than five minutes later, the junior pairing of Matt Medeiros and Eric Melaragno sealed the victory with the fourth point, clinching a 6-1, 6-3 decision over senior Steve Iv and sophomore Kyle Keosykhao.
With the triumph, MSC improved to 6-1 in league action and 6-2 overall. Woonsocket, which had captured its first four contests, fell to 4-4.
âIt feels rejuvenating, thatâs for sure,â Medeiros noted later. âWhen you lose a match like we did to Prout (6-1) last Thursday, we wanted to fix the things we did wrong. We wanted get on a roll again.
âJack was sick, and Coach told us right beforehand that weâd be playing No. 2 doubles; we usually play No. 3,â Melaragno added. âI know I was nervous, because we were moving up. Weâre used to playing the (opponentâs) last doubles team, but now we had to pick it up a level.
âThe intensity increased, but my serve was landing in a lot, which surprised me. We also both played well at the net.â
The final tally didnât reveal just how close the contest turned out to be. After Woonsocket senior co-captain Greg Wala leveled a 6-1, 6-1 verdict on fellow senior Matt Ceh-Castillo at No. 1 singles, the Mountâs Guevremont downed junior southpaw Luke Cheever, 6-3, 6-3.
âIt was a really good day for me,â Wala explained. âMy backhand and backhand slice were really on; my ability to control them stunned me. I had faced Matt before in scrimmages last year, and I know he beat me in straight sets.
âI just kept thinking to myself it was a new day, a new year, and that I had been practicing a lot,â he continued. âI knew I had improved. I felt a little uneasiness at first, but I took the first two games and my confidence just built from there.â
The Mounties regained the lead at 2-1 following Guevremontâs win, but the Novans fought back to tie it once more after senior Ricky Inxi survived a wild 6-7 (8), 6-3, 6-1 verdict over senior Jake Deslandes.
âAfter I lost the first set, I took a breath and cleared my head,â Inxi said. âI slowed things down and stopped rushing. Surprisingly, my backhand came through for me better than I thought it would.
âI didnât know until our third set that we were behind; thatâs when I thought, âMan, Iâve got to win this! If not, weâre going to lose this match.ââ
MSC had other ideas, however. Demers and Saviano did their part, as did Medeiros and Melaragno.
âIn our match, you could tell all four players were exhausted entering the third set,â Demers offered. âWe just gave each other confidence-builders and fed off each other. We didnât realize how close the overall match was, but we did know we had to win to help the team.â
Stated Saviano: âI can believe this; we worked so hard to get here. Matt and I were losing games early on because we were making careless mistakes. We just started playing points like we do in practice; we just wanted to knock the ball back over the net and keep it in the right location.â
Woonsocket coach Mike Lemay couldnât argue with the effort his kids displayed.
âWe battled, and the kids worked hard,â he said. âThis was a good match for us; it was better than the two previous (respective 6-1 and 5-2 defeats to Chariho and Classical). Our No. 1 doubles team played fantastic. Whenever a match goes three (sets), you know the kids are fighting. We just came up a little short.â