Amidst a kaleidoscope of butterflies flying through the tennis courts at Saugus High School on Tuesday, the Saugus boys tennis team took on West Ranch in the first Foothill League match of the season.
The Wildcats utilized a strong start in the first two rounds and consistent play from their singles and doubles players to defeat the Centurions 16-2.
West Ranch was led by its No. 1 singles player Charlie Spina and No. 2 singles player Alec Robertson, with the duo combining to win all six of their sets in dominating fashion.
Robertson didn’t lose a game on the afternoon and Spina dropped only three games in a matchup with Saugus’ No. 2 singles player Lawrence Lam.
Spina played ultra-aggressive throughout the day, charging the net on several points, but also played a sound defensive game, even hitting a successful tweener while recovering from a lob shot.
“I really like playing at the net, it’s one of my favorite places to be on the court,” Spina said. “I feel like I have a lot more control and it takes a lot of time away from my opponent which makes controlling the point and placing my shots a lot easier.”
Lam was the only singles player to win a set for Saugus, defeating Chris Woodland 6-2 in the third round, who had subbed in for West Ranch’s No. 3 singles player Michael Ponto.
Normally slated as the No. 3 singles player, Lam moved up to the two spot because Saugus’ usual No. 1 singles player Andrew Belcher was out due to the flu.
Saugus’ No. 3 doubles team of Noah Van Norman and Aarya Sharma won their last set against Suraj Doshi and Chris Kang 6-2, with the latter having subbed in for West Ranch’s No. 1 doubles pair of Sam Vila and Connor Schloemer.
“Lawrence normally my three, he played two today, and I thought he played extremely well. He played his style of tennis, which I was really happy that he stuck with how he plays and didn’t change his playing style,” Saugus head coach Bailey Sindle said. “I’m very proud of all of them. Regardless of win, loss, I was proud of everyone. When Lawrence won his singles match I think that was really big for him as well as Aarya and Noah winning their doubles match too.”
Saugus’ No. 1 singles player Matthew Schwartz lost his first set to Spina, but battled against Ponto in the second set to force a tie-break.
Though he lost 7-2 in the tie-break, Schwartz’s unwillingness to give up was a theme for the entire Centurions team, who knew they were facing tough competition in the Wildcats, who are aiming for a fifth consecutive league title.
“We knew coming in it was going to be tough, but I think for us starting off with them was good because we’re seeing what one of the best teams is going to be like and we can only get better from there,” Sindle said. “I’m proud of how everyone played, they all played super aggressive. We had a hard practice yesterday and I told them what to expect and they definitely showed that today and what we worked on, so I’m proud of all of them.”
West Ranch was strong on the doubles side, with Vila and Schloemer winning both of their sets, 6-0 and 6-2. The No. 2 doubles team of Brandon Jun and Jacob Jun also won all of their sets, as did the No. 3 doubles team of Rohan Ramrattan and Chad Tarr.
Even with the early success, West Ranch could still change its lineup depending on the matchup.
“There’s a lot more strategy that goes into the lineups that most people wouldn’t think. Putting certain players in doubles, certain players in singles depending on the team that we’re playing is huge,” Spina said. “There is a lot of good competition in our league this year, we’re all pretty even, so I think it’s going to come down to smart lineups and solid playing for our team.”
While the swarm of butterflies provided some extra color on the courts, it didn’t seem to affect the players too much.
Perhaps for just a moment, their concentration was interrupted, as they laughed watching hundreds of them make their way past the courts.
“It was crazy. I have no idea what’s up with those butterflies, they are all over the place,” Spina said with a smile. “Not too big of a deal, we all just had a laugh about it.”
Next up, West Ranch will face Golden Valley on the road and Saugus will be at Canyon. Both matches are scheduled to start at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday.