HARWICH – The Monomoy boys tennis team entered the season with big expectations. With seniors accounting for half of the 16-player roster, there was a reason for the Sharks to be optimistic about what they might be able to accomplish.
So far, those expectations have been spot on.
Monomoy became one of the first Lower Cape teams to qualify for the postseason when it punched its ticket to the Division 4 state tournament on Thursday with a 5-0 victory over Rising Tide.
“It feels really good,” Monomoy coach Reuben Bowman said of qualifying. “We have a lot of seniors on this team and they know it’s their last season so they’re really, really pushing to have a good record and be a good seed in the tournament. They want to go farther than we’ve ever been.”
Last year’s Sharks earned a bye in the preliminary round of the Division 3 South sectional tournament and then defeated Norwell 5-0 to advance to the quarterfinals, where they suffered a 4-1 loss to South runner-up Martha’s Vineyard.
Bowman said he and Monomoy athletic director Karen Guillemette are pretty sure the second round is as far as the boys tennis program has ever advanced, so that has been some motivation the eight seniors are holding onto.
“We’re looking to beat that and hopefully we can be successful,” Bowman said.
Monomoy (10-1) has relied on its seniors to anchor much of the lineup, though a few underclassmen have been key contributors throughout the season. Bowman said that senior Troy Olson has occupied the top spot at first singles, freshman Ryan Casey has been at second and senior Joe Malone third.
Seniors Colin Malone and Charles Watson make up the first doubles pairing, with sophomore Gavin McDonnell and senior Matt Barbella at second doubles.
Bowman knows the seniors possess different skillsets and strengths, but they have all been strong mentally so far. For some players, such as Colin Malone, it’s a matter of being comfortable after years of competing in the doubles position.
“You have a senior who has played at first doubles for three or four years now so when you’re down, he’s like, ‘I’ve been there,’” Bowman said of Colin Malone. “The shots are so automatic for him. He knows how to plays and knows all the different positioning.”
The coach noted that Olson has a knack for clearing his head and getting back to form even when things aren’t going his way.
“He has that mental attitude that I can say something to him and he’ll do a hard reset and get back to focusing on where he needs to be to try to win the game,” Bowman said.
And then there’s Barbella, who Bowman said has provided a steady senior presence at second doubles.
“This year he’s stepped up and grabbed hold of being the leader of the second doubles pair,” Bowman said. “He’s really taken on that leadership role.”
Although Bowman knew Casey would be a strong contributor as a freshman, he’s been most impressed with the way the second singles player is able to overwhelm opponents with shots.
“He just doesn’t stop playing and he’s so consistent,” Bowman said of Casey. “He hits the ball with a good amount of power so it kind of forces the other player to stay back and never get to the net. He’s so consistent with really good top-spin, so the ball is on top of you before you realize he hit it at you.”
The Sharks were scheduled to face one of their toughest remaining tests against the Sturgis co-op team comprised of boys from Sturgis East and West on Wednesday. Sturgis handed Monomoy its only loss – a 3-2 defeat – when the teams first met April 8.
Bowman said the key to the Sturgis match and other tough matches down the stretch will be staying focused.
“It’s a mental game,” he said. “If you have a bad point, you just have to realize it’s a bad point, shrug it off and don’t let it affect the next point.”
Regardless of Wednesday’s result, Bowman said he’s looking forward to finishing out the season with his eight seniors and seeing how far they can take the program.
“I may never have a season like this again as a coach,” Bowman said. “I’m just along for the ride and facilitating, they’re the ones doing all of the work, and I’m just so proud of them.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.