Monday June 4, 2012

LEE -- For a team that had to battle just to reach the postseason, Sunday’s Western Massachusetts tournament opener against Frontier presented some new challenges for the Lee boys tennis team.

The Wildcats had to face girls at third singles and both doubles.

"I’ve never played a girl in my life before," said Lee’s second singles player, Matty Kelley.

The No. 9 Red Hawks had a starting lineup with two boys, meaning they could play in the girls tournament without those boys or play in the boys tournament with their full roster. For the second straight year, the team unanimously chose to play with the boys. That meant a trip to No. 8 Lee, where the Wildcats were able to settle down despite some early nerves and win 5-0. That included wins at the top two singles slots by Tanner DeVarennes and Andy Consolati over fellow boys Connor Luce and Ricky Fields from Frontier (11-6).

Kelley beat Eleni Balis, 6-2, 6-2, while both Lee doubles teams dropped opening games before recovering to win in straight sets. Joe Winston and Stone Burdick were pushed to the limit in the second set before falling, 6-2, 7-5.

"We were shocked," Winston said. "We were expecting to roll right through. It was a lot more difficult than we thought."

What will be even harder is what lies ahead for the Wildcats (8-7). Lee must travel to top-seeded Belchertown (15-3) today in the quarterfinal round of the Division III playoffs. The Orioles beat the Wildcats last year in the Western Mass. final, but only DeVarennes and Consolati at No. 2 singles are still playing for Lee.

DeVarennes didn’t surrender a game on Sunday despite a cast on his left wrist and thumb. The win was his fourth since injuring his wrist and thumb in the individual tournament. While DeVarennes was able to use spin to comfortably win, he said the injury does hurt his serve toss and his backhand.

"I’m getting better with it but it’s still not the same as having [the cast] off," DeVarennes said. "My backhand is wild. I just keep it in, don’t go for too much and hit in the court."

DeVarennes may have to go for a little more if the Wildcats are to get back to the sectional final. But then again, Lee’s hopes to even make the playoffs didn’t look so good when the Wildcats were 4-7. They haven’t lost since.

"It’s nice to be in the tournament," said Lee coach John Perry. "I know our boys will do the best they can out there. We’ll just see what happens."

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Lee 5, Frontier 0

Singles -- 1. Tanner DeVarennes (L) def. Connor Luce 6-0, 6-0; 2. Andy Consolati (L) def. Ricky Fields 7-6 (2), 6-0; 3. Matty Kelley (L) def. Eleni Balis 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles -- 1. Joe Winston/Stone Burdick (L) def. Meagan Sullivan/Lilly Schumann 6-2, 7-5; 2. Chris Cuevas/Zach Kelley (L) def. Chelsea Royal/Alli Zera 6-3, 6-1.

To reach Christopher James:
cjames@berkshireeagle.com,
(413) 496-6252.
On Twitter: @BECJ2k.