SHREWSBURY - The way the season ended was a disappointment for the Monument Mountain boys tennis team, but for Spartans coach Marshall Fisher, the goal had already been reached.
"Our goal was a Western Mass. championship," Fisher said Monday after Whitinsville Christian ended the Spartans' season 4-1 in the MIAA Division III state semifinal round. "I have to say this was a very winnable match and you've got to figure the finals will be very difficult.
"We achieved [a Western Mass. win], and it was a great season."
Monument (13-3) got a straight-set win from Cam Powell at No. 3 singles at St. John's of Shrewsbury, but was beaten in every other match, including a three-set loss at No. 2 doubles and Kevin Li's straight-set loss with both going to a tiebreaker.
With the win, Whitinsville Christian will face Northern Mass. champion Weston in Thursday's state final, also at St. John's.
Powell trailed Jake Chapman 4-1 in the first set, but lost just one game the rest of the match en route to a 7-5, 6-0 win, overcoming what he said were nerves due to the state setting.
"I was able to take a deep breath, settle down and start playing my game," Powell said. "I definitely had some momentum carrying over from the first set. My play at the net was stronger today, so I was able to use that in the second set to take over."
Despite Powell's win for the first team point of the match, Whitinsville came back with a 6-2, 6-1 win for Owen Brookhouse at No. 2 singles over Satchel Fisher, as well as a 7-5, 6-2 first doubles win for Michael Dunlap and Gabe Brookhouse over Monument Mountain's Kevin Costello and Alec Goffin.
Li traded strong ground strokes back and forth with Whitinsville's Ben Koopman at No. 1 singles, and looked to be well on his way to forcing a third set, up 5-2. But Koopman's blistering forehand allowed him to slowly come back to take a 6-5 lead. Li forced another tiebreaker, but like the first set, Koopman prevailed 7-5 in that to clinch the win and the trip to the state final.
"He was just bearing down," said Whitinsville coach Don Koopman, Ben's grandfather. "He was working in and out and they were playing tentative for a while, but then he started hitting away like he can. His forehand is a really strong forehand."
Marshall Fisher said the second set had unfolded in a similar fashion to Li's match with Mount Greylock's Nyein Soe in the Western Mass. championship. However, this one didn't go Li's way.
"When he was winning a lot of games, he was hitting his forehand hard. That's what I was trying to get him to do, but he got a little tight," the coach said. "Against someone like that, you can't just keep pushing him back. You've got to hit, which he was doing earlier."
Whitinsville Christian finalized its 4-1 victory when Josh Cook and Spencer Gorman took the third set of a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 win over Isaac Graves and Andrew Rada at second doubles.
"Rada and I played really well together [in the second set]," Graves said. "I started hitting two second serves, which allowed me to get my serve in. That worked much better than anything else.
"They hit the ball pretty well; they rallied back. Their consistency was very good."
Graves echoed his coach's sentiments about the season.
"I'm going to be very pleased [looking back]," he said. "Our goal was Western Mass., and we accomplished that goal."
Singles: 1 - Ben Koopman (WC) def. Kevin Li 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-5); 2 - Owen Brookhouse (WC) def. Satchel Fisher 6-2, 6-1; 3 - Cam Powell (MM) def. Jake Chapman 7-5, 6-0. Doubles: 1 - Michael Dunlap/Gabe Brookhouse (WC) def. Kevin Costello/Alec Goffin 7-5, 6-2; 2 - Josh Cook/Spencer Gorman (WC) def. Isaac Graves/Andrew Rada 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.