SOUTH DENNIS – It isn’t always easy for new teammates to come together, especially when even the players who are familiar with each other haven’t played together for a couple years.
Despite missing their 2020 season due to COVID-19, the Monomoy Regional High School boys tennis team benefited from the strong team chemistry the squad developed this spring. Although the Sharks dropped their final match of the season — a 4-1 loss to a Sturgis co-op team comprised of boys from both Sturgis East and Sturgis West — the players were thrilled with the 9-3 mark the team posted during the regular season.
The biggest reason for that success, according to junior co-captain Joe Malone from South Dennis, has been the bond the players share.
“I think the key was definitely team chemistry,” Malone said after Friday’s loss at the Johnny A. Kelley Recreation Area in South Dennis. “We all support each other here in our own ways. I feel like me and Colin (Malone) made sure everyone on the team feels like they have a spot here and feels like they can do well and that they have room to grow. I feel like everybody on the team has grown this year.”
Although the team does have the luxury of having six juniors, there have been some notable differences about this year. Aside from the lineup constantly rotating due to missing players, the team also has had to adjust to a new coach, Reuben Bowman, who was originally slotted to coach last year before COVID-19 hit.
Bowman isn’t a stranger to the sport — he played at Cape Cod Tech as a high school student and later coached at Bourne High. He also gained some familiarity with a few of the tennis players last year when he arrived at Monomoy as a mathematics teacher.
“Being at the school last year getting to know the boys really helped develop relationships with them,” Bowman said. “It’s great to see them in an outside light. They have personality that you just don’t see in the classroom.”
The first-year coach said he’s relied on Malone and his co-captain, junior Colin Malone from Harwich, to help with the leadership duties.
“Not only do they bring in leadership at the academic level, they are also funny but also very serious,” Bowman said of the two Malones, who are not related. “They bring the dynamic of ‘We’re going to win,’ they bring that swagger. You need a little bit of that confidence — all of the guys thrive off that.”
Joe Malone played alongside junior Matt Barbella, a Harwich resident, in first doubles on Friday. Colin Malone was the team’s No. 1 singles player, eighth grader Ryan Casey of Harwich was No. 2 singles and freshman Gavin McDonnell of Dennis was third singles. Junior Luke Sanders and sophomore Maximus Weinberg, both from Chatham, were the No. 2 doubles pair.
Casey earned the Sharks’ lone victory with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Sturgis’ Nate Brickett in their No. 2 singles match. Among the winners for league champion Sturgis (10-1) was Elliot Stark, a junior from Harwich who defeated Williams 6-3, 6-1 in third singles.
“My counterstrokes were pretty good today and I got some serves in,” said Stark, who added that it’s been enjoyable getting to know new Sturgis kids in the first year of the program’s co-op team. “I didn’t know anyone coming into this season because I was new. It feels great to win the league because we went 0-11 my freshman year, so it was a huge turn around.”
Both teams now prepare for the Division 3 South sectional tournament. After experiencing so much success during the regular season, Monomoy’s players are looking forward to facing a new challenge in the postseason.
“It’ll be fun to see who we get placed against,” said Troy Olson, a junior from Dennis Port who plays as the Sharks’ top singles player when healthy. “I know two years ago we got creamed against some off-Cape team, but it’ll be a fun thing because I’ve never seen this team play against the best teams that we can. Playing against the No. 1 players from off-Cape teams is also always a challenge.”
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