Tuesday June 12, 2012

WORCESTER -- It was a lesson in perception for Lenox.

Even a five-loss Central Massachusetts champion can be potent.

"Western Mass. was a breeze compared to this," said Millionaires senior Avi Sternberg. "This is a new level of playing. The kids out here, not only are they athletic and know how to hit the ball but they also have a great strategic sense."

Lenox had few answers against Nashoba on Monday in a 5-0 MIAA Division III state semifinal loss at Clark University’s Corash Tennis Courts. Millionaires coach Phil Cohen thought his team had a shot before the match if Lenox (16-2) could have a strong showings in doubles. Those two matches were academic after the Chieftains (14-5) rolled to wins at all three singles points.

"They definitely had us outmatched at one and two singles," Cohen said. "But I thought we could’ve done a little more at both doubles positions. Š Not Lenox’s day today."

Nashoba featured twin brothers Pra and Pri Vennapusa at the top two singles spots. Sternberg put up a good fight in the first set against Pra Vennapusa, holding a 5-4 lead before Vennapusa won eight straight points. Sternberg failed to win a game the rest of the way, getting blanked in the second set, 6-0.

"He hits the ball very deep. He hits the ball hard," Sternberg said. "When he comes to net, it’s hard to hit anything by him. Alternately, when I’m at net he has some great passing shots. It’s pretty hard, off anything but a very easy ball, to win a point against him."

Life wasn’t any easier for Andrew Vickery at second singles against Pri. The Millionaire won just one of 13 games, falling 6-1, 6-0. That left Lenox (16-2) in the hands of Dan Palmer, who lost to Christian Fletcher 6-2, 6-2, at third singles.

"[Fletcher] definitely had some consistent, angled shots that were tough to get to," Palmer said. "I’d usually get to them and I wouldn’t be able to do much because it’s like this high off the ground. So you kind of just pop it up back to him and just do it again."

As Cohen expected, the Millionaires were more competitive at doubles but it still wasn’t enough to earn a victory. Connor O’Brien and Isaac Gotterer won the second set against Josh Bricknell and Ben von Stetten, but the match had already been decided by then. They would eventually fall in a super tiebreaker while the second doubles team of Jasper Nash and Liam Gennari lost 6-2 in the second set after falling in a first-set tiebreaker.

Still, there were few tears in Worcester. The Millionaires accomplished their primary goal of reclaiming the Western Mass. and Berkshire County titles, having to beat Monument Mountain and Mount Greylock twice each in the span of a couple weeks to do it. Sternberg and Palmer, both seniors, said competing at the state level is never easy.

"Coming out here and having this experience, it’s the cherry on top," Sternberg said.

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Singles -- 1. Pra Vennapusa (N) def. Avi Sternberg 7-5, 6-0; 2. Pri Vennapusa (N) def. Andrew Vickery, 6-1, 6-0; 3. Christian Fletcher (N) def. Dan Palmer 6-2, 6-2.

Doubles -- 1. Josh Bricknell/Ben von Stetten (N) def. Connor O’Brien/Isaac Gotterer 6-4, 4-6, 10-5; 2. Tom Kennon/Jack Slattery (N) def. Jasper Nash/Liam Gennari 7-6 (5), 6-2.