Monday July 16, 2012

There is little doubt Tanner DeVarennes is the most talented high school tennis player in Berkshire County.

His unblemished record bears that out. What's not so obvious is his desire to win for his Lee High School teammates.

Take this past season. DeVarennes, a finalist at the Western Massachusetts individual tournament in 2011, broke a bone in his wrist diving for a ball in that tournament's semifinals. He played on in the match but eventually lost. That was on a Saturday. By Monday, he was playing in a team match with a cast on.

"No, I do not regret diving for the ball. That's how I play the game," DeVarennes said. "I knew that our team was in need. We needed to get to the postseason. Those last four or five games of the regular season were really important to do that."

That drive, along with his oceans of ability, make DeVarennes the All-Eagle boys tennis most valuable player for the second straight season. The junior did will his team to the Western Mass. Division III tournament, helping Lee to a first-round victory over Frontier in just his fourth match following that injury. The Wildcats fell to Belchertown in the quarterfinals.

DeVarennes finished the season with just one loss, that defeat in the individual sectional tournament to Ross Kamin of Longmeadow. For Lee coach John Perry, that match, despite the loss, epitomized much of what makes DeVarennes such a standout. He didn't quit in the midst of the match or in the weeks following.

"He's a gutsy kid," Perry said. "I think he didn't want to just quit because he got hurt. I just see him this year, he just seems to be more mature. His match against [Kamin] was a great match. His game was on. He was in a zone. It was a wonderful match to watch. He had good power, good touch. He was really focused on that match."

Perry said he thought DeVarennes had a shot to win that match, a 7-5, 6-2 loss, were he healthy throughout. DeVarennes doesn't leave any doubt as to what his goal will be next season after making it to the final four in Western Mass. the last two years.

"I want our team to win the Western Mass. title," he said. "I also want to try to win the individuals."

It certainly seems to be a goal within the rising senior's reach. His only two losses in the last two years at the high school level are to Kamin and two-time Western Mass. champ Tom Suchodolsky from Amherst.

To that end, DeVarennes' game is evolving. He has long been a heavy baseline threat, but now, with the help of coach Jay Penny at Berkshire West, DeVarennes is developing a stronger volley and net game.

"It's just a new shot to me," DeVarennes said. "My whole life I've stayed the baseline. I've realized I need to come forward more.

"It just allows you to finish the points you have to. It gives you more angle. It gives you more options with your game."

For the two-time All-Eagle MVP, a more potent game is a thought that would keep anybody in Berkshire County up at night.