BERLIN - For the third year in a row, Berlin and Bristol Easternâ€™s boys tennis match was decided by one match.
But for the first time of those three previous contests, and the first time in seven years overall, it was the Lancers who came out on top, winning a 4-3 match on Tuesday afternoon to avenge last yearâ€™s heartbreaking loss.
â€śThis is the one we lost last year, if we won it we would have been conference champions,â€ť Eastern head coach Logan Bourke said. â€śSo this was one we wanted.â€ť
The Lancers (1-1) had fallen to the Redcoats (0-3) six times in a row dating back to 2013, and had lost twice by 7-0 shutouts from 2014-16 before closing the gap the past two seasons. On Tuesday afternoon, on Berlinâ€™s home court, they finally broke through that slump and conquered one of their chief tormentors.
â€śIt feels great,â€ť Bourke said. â€śItâ€™s one step towards our ultimate goal. I couldnâ€™tâ€™ be prouder of the guys. They worked really hard.â€ť
Things didnâ€™t start well for Eastern, which is how things normally start for teams facing Berlin. The Redcoatsâ€™ top singles player, Jon Trevethan, swept away Ben Chiasson 6-0, 6-0, as the defending Class M state champ continued a streak of flawless regular season play that stretched throughout the entire 2018 campaign.
â€śI felt good,â€ť Trevethan said. â€śIt was a little windy today, but I felt comfortable on my home court. As long as I have that, I usually feel confident.â€ť
Trevethan had full confidence within his familiar confines, but the Redcoatsâ€™ familiar foe in Eastern had begun to take a more competitive shape in recent years, and Berlinâ€™s leader knew his team would need to be at its best on Tuesday.
â€śI knew coming into this match that it wouldnâ€™t be easy,â€ť Trevethan said. â€śWe lost a lot of seniors and [Eastern] got a lot better. I was just hoping for the best.â€ť
Instead, the Redcoats got the Lancersâ€™ best, as Eastern took two singles matches and two doubles matches to secure the narrow 4-3 victory. Berlin had a last chance to steal the match behind first-year senior John Addamo, who almost forced a decisive third set against the Lancersâ€™ Brandon Greger, but Greger settled down to earn the 6-3, 7-5 win to give Eastern its fourth win of the afternoon.
â€śIn the beginning it was going pretty well,â€ť Greger said. â€śIn the end he came back and I just kept playing the way I was playing. I let him make the mistakes, but he was good.â€ť
Berlinâ€™s other singles winner aside from Trevethan was Justin Pattarina, who took down Andrew Anulewicz 6-3, 6-3 in the fourth singles contest.
â€śI felt good,â€ť Pattarina said. â€śI just played my tennis and made him make the mistakes and got it over the net.â€ť
Eastern secured the singles split when Kurt Miskell defeated Justin Chyra in the second singles match. After claiming two straight games to turn a 4-4 tie into a 6-4 win, Miskell finished the job with a 6-0 win in the second set, using a monstrous forehand in front of the net to seal the win and give the Lancers a crucial point.
Over in doubles competition, Kyle Lyr and Jason Lipscomb made quick work of Josh Braun and Braden Shea with a convincing 6-1, 6-0 win, as the duo battled through the elements for what was Easternâ€™s second win of the day.
â€śIt was a little windy today, but we played OK,â€ť Lyr said. â€śWe can always do better.â€ť
The Lancers got an equally solid performance from the first doubles team of Justin Lacauture and Noah Stevens, who beat James Zovich and Jackson Lombardi 6-2, 6-0. Berlin salvaged a doubles match in the last contest of the day, as Noah Mihalko and John Cofrancesco beat Lewis Sinche and Nolan Abitabilo 6-3, 6-2.
The Redcoats received strong efforts from their plethora of first-year players, but for the first time in almost a decade, they came up just short against a team they hadnâ€™t lost to since Bourke became the head coach at Eastern.
â€śIt was so close, but our freshmen our getting betterâ€ť Berlin head coach Mike Flannery said. â€śBy the end of the year, weâ€™ll be a much better team.â€ť
Ryan Chichester can be reached at email@example.com