Saugus Centurions boys’ tennis notched its first win of the year on Thursday, in a tight Foothill League battle with the visiting Golden Valley Grizzlies.
The win rested in the hands of Saugus’ No. 2 doubles team of Dylan Helms and Tate Franti. The Centurion duo fought through a long 10-set match with Grizzlies No. 3 doubles Daren Zareno and Angel Gonzalez, before sealing the 10-8 win for Saugus on the day.
Helms and Franti were tested all day, winning the crucial match 6-4, while also taking their first match 7-5.
Saugus (1-5, 1-3) was led by No. 1 singles Mathew Tolosa, who stormed through all of his frames with scores of 6-1, 6-0 and 6-0.
Tolosa looks like a whole new player this season and has impressed Centurion head coach Bailey Sindle with his development.
“Mathew has improved tremendously since last year,” Sindle said via email. “He’s always had solid strokes, but I think his biggest improvement is his mindset and mental game. He is laser-focused in matches now and wants to make the most of his senior season. He has goals set in place and expectations that he wants to meet and nothing is going to stop him. He is reliable in singles and I feel extremely proud of his growth not just from last year to this year, but over the past four years.”
Saugus’ No. 1 doubles team of Sean Poduska and Sean Pacheco were the only other players to sweep their matches on the day. The Seans brought in a big three points in the Centurions’ win, taking their matches 6-1, 6-1 and 6-2.
“The Seans are a different breed,” Sindle said. “They are both seniors and have played every single match together since their freshman year except one. They have worked together to develop strategies that feed off of each other’s strengths and this year they have nearly perfected them. What is admirable about them, however, is their approach to tennis. They love being a part of team and have immense respect for others. They know that they are good but are constantly motivating their teammates to do their best and will be the first ones sitting and watching those still playing.”
Golden Valley No. 1 singles Andrew Yoon shook off his opening match loss to Tolosa. The sophomore dropped the match 6-1 but just missed out on several points, in a match with a handful of deuces. Yoon won his later matches 6-2 and 6-0.
“Andrew has improved a lot from last year,” said Grizzlies coach Josh Stimac via email. “We are continuing to work on his consistency and confidence to close out matches. He fights hard on the tennis court, and I couldn’t be more proud of him as a person and an athlete.”
The Grizzlies’ No. 1 doubles team Mark Baez and Nathan Chon also rebounded from an opening-match loss. The duo finished the day with 6-4 and 6-2 wins.
Golden Valley was right there in several long battles but just fell in Thursday’s contest.
“My guys fought hard to put the match yesterday within reach, but the Saugus players were just slightly more consistent toward the end of the close sets,” Stimac said.
Sindle’s team has played many lengthy matches already this season, preparing the group for league battles like Thursday’s.
“We knew that going in it would be close,” Sindle said. “Golden Valley is a smart team with a lot of determination. It’s mentally taxing to play long sets, especially when each game reaches deuce or sudden death. We’ve had some long sets earlier in the season. I think the team has done well at building up their mental toughness to last in back-and-forth sets.”
There’s still a long season ahead of both of these teams, especially with the rain canceling some early matches.
Stimac is still hopeful for a positive season as he feels the team has been in most of the matches they’ve lost.
“I used the word ‘fight’ a lot in my description of my team,” Stimac said. “Even though they are losing some of these matches the boys are still hopeful and pushing forward.”
Sindle believes a handful of her players will be threats at League Preliminaries in late April. However, the camaraderie has stood out most to the fifth-year head coach.
“The thing that has been standing out most to me is the camaraderie the team has and their willingness to support each other,” Sindle said. “In the five years I have been with the boys, this is the best team in terms of encouragement and support. I feel extremely lucky to have a group of boys that love coming to tennis each day and spending time with their friends.”
The two teams will rematch at Golden Valley in a few weeks but return to the courts Tuesday. The Grizzlies will host Valencia while Saugus returns home for non-league action as the Centurions host St. Bonaventure. Both matches are slated for 3 p.m.