Sports

Tiger boys’ tennis team opens with a victory

TIGER NO. 1 SINGLES player Clyde Malhotra rips a forehand during his victory on Friday vs. his Colchester counterpart. Malhotra’s strong forehand was a big factor in his 6-1, 6-3 win, which helped the Tigers top the Lakers, 4-3. Independent photo/Steve James

“It was a serious nailbiter. (Lewis Suchomel) played really well, and then the other kid picked his game up.”
— Coach Ken Schoen

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Union High School boys’ tennis team made a successful debut on Friday, April 15, edging visiting Colchester on the town recreation courts, 4-3, despite missing several players, including two near the top of its singles ladder.

Although they were shorthanded, the Tigers took four out of five singles matches, with wins at No. 1 from junior Clyde Malhotra, No. 2 from junior Aidan Chance, No. 3 from junior Lewis Suchomel, and No. 5 from sophomore Iver Anderson, all in straight sets.

At No. 4 singles sophomore Brian Newton, at No. 1 doubles sophomore Eliot Heminway and freshman Avery Hamilton, and at No. 2 doubles sophomore Silas Taylor and junior Finn O’Neil dropped competitive matches.

Coach Ken Schoen was pleased to see his team prevail even without sophomore Kellan Bartlett, expected to challenge Malhotra for the top of the singles ladder; freshman Jackson Murray, who will start out at No. 4 singles but could move higher; and junior Eddie Fallis, who could alternate with Anderson at No. 5 singles and on No. 2 doubles.

Schoen noted the team lost to Colchester when missing players due to spring break a couple years ago, and reversing the outcome this time shows how talented the team is.

“I’m really happy. I think this team is going to win a lot of their matches,” he said. “It was nice to win without a lot of our good players. It just shows the depth of the team.”

At No. 1 singles, Malhotra defeated Colchester’s Caden Mercer, 6-1, 6-3. Malhotra dominated the first set, winning many points with his big forehand and aggressive net game, before wavering for a few minutes at the opening of the second set.

As Schoen noted, the strong winds picked up and momentarily threw Malhotra off, but he recovered nicely.

“Winds like that are sometimes an equalizer. It takes a good tennis player’s game away a little bit … In part that’s what happened for Clyde. He has such a power game, you throw a heavy wind like that into it, and your power game is gone. He had to slow it down and hit much more reservedly,” Schoen said. “The weather equalized the game for a while, and then he adjusted.”

At No. 2, Chance, one of the team’s captains, really never let Laker Janosh Edlemann into the match after the first few games in earning a 6-3, 6-1, victory. Chance gradually took control with steady play and a variety of backhand, forehand and service winners.

MUHS NO. 1 DOUBLES player Avery Hamilton launches a forehand during his and partner Eliot Heminway’s competitive, but ultimately unsuccessful, match in Middlebury vs. Colchester on Friday. MUHS defeated the Lakers, 4-3, overall.
Independent photo/Steve James

At No. 5, Anderson coasted past Miles O’Brien, 6-0, 6-3. O’Brien raised his game somewhat in the second set, but couldn’t match Anderson’s consistency.

“Iver is just so steady and so smart,” Schoen said. “He just stays in the points and wins two thirds of them.”

The real drama came next in Suchomel’s victory at No. 3 singles. By the time his second set was under way the Tiger doubles teams had lost or were losing, and Newton had lost the first set and was trailing in his second, ultimately losing to Riley Fitzgerald, 6-4, 6-0.

At No. 1 doubles, the Lakers’ Anthony Klevem and Brady Towle defeated Heminway and Avery Hamilton M, 6-3, 6-3. At No. 2 doubles, Colchester’s Cooper Seissen and Parker Eidsheim topped Taylor and O’Neil, 7-5, 6-3.

Suchomel cruised to a 6-0 first-set victory over Jonny Labrie, but the Laker rallied to make the second set a battle.

“It was a serious nailbiter. He (Suchomel) played really well, and then the other kid picked his game up,” Schoen said.

Schoen elected not to tell Suchomel the overall matched almost certainly hinged on his result. Finally, Suchomel served for the set, and the match, up 5-4. And promptly fell behind, 0-40.

TIGER NO. 2 SINGLES player Aidan Chance gets some air as he serves during his match on Friday. Chance got stronger as the match progressed and won, 6-3, 6-1, to help the Tigers edge visiting Colchester.
Independent photo/Steve James

Schoen had spoken to him before the game.

“I just said, ‘Hey, man, you can close this out. Take your time with your serve, and you’ve got it,’” Schoen said. “And he said, ‘Yeah, yeah, I think I do.’”

After falling behind, Schoen said Suchomel “just got really calm and focused.” A couple strong serves and solid hits from Suchomel then turned the game around and clinched the match and the Tigers’ win.

Afterward Schoen told Suchomel he had withheld what was at stake.

“He said, ‘Thank you. I didn’t want to know that,’” Schoen said.

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