MANSFIELD – Even in defeat, the Nauset boys tennis team was able to recognize that the program took strides in the right direction this spring.
Moments after his team suffered a 4-1 loss to Mansfield on Monday in a Division 2 state tournament Round of 32 matchup, Nauset coach Andy Lisle praised the 23rd-seeded Warriors for the way they performed this season.
“They’ve come a long way,” Lisle said. “They just need to keep playing more.”
Monday’s loss was hardly the ending Nauset had hoped for, though it still served as a reward for the team, which qualified for the postseason after finishing the regular season with a 14-4 record.
That was a major improvement from the 4-6 mark the team recorded a year ago.
The big reason for the turnaround, according to senior second singles player Skylar Bates, was an improved sense of camaraderie among the players.
“We just got along very well. Everyone was super positive,” said Bates, an Orleans resident. “Even on the days that we lose, we just get back on the van and we’re still all having a good time.”
There were plenty of strong performances sprinkled throughout the spring.
Bates said his lasting memory of his final tennis season will be the way he bounced back to beat Norwell’s second singles player after losing to him a couple weeks earlier.
“The first time I lost pretty badly and then the second time I won by a landslide,” Bates said. “I don’t know what happened, it just clicked.”
Nauset’s first singles player, Rufus McCleery, was responsible for the only highlight against 10th-seeded Mansfield. The junior from Chatham earned a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Mansfield’s first singles player Kailash Elumalai for the Warriors’ lone win.
McCleery said the victory will serve as one of his signature moments from this spring.
“I’m proud of this win – 6-0, 6-0 in the playoffs is difficult,” he said. “This might’ve been my best match of the season. He was a difficult opponent with a really good record.”
The junior also praised his teammates for bouncing back from a year ago.
“I’m proud of the team for doing so well,” McCleery said. “Last year was a little rocky, but I feel like we improved a lot.”
Sophomore Salvi Cacciola suffered a 6-2, 6-0 loss at third singles for Nauset on Monday alongside Bates, who was defeated 6-1, 6-0. Sophomore Murphy McCleery and junior Malcolm Stewart partnered in a 6-1, 6-1 loss at first doubles, while junior Conner Pike and sophomore Tom Foley lost their second doubles match 6-3, 6-2.
Even after the loss, Lisle said he’s excited to see what Nauset’s doubles pairings and Cacciola will bring back next year with another year of experience.
“Salvi is a soccer player – you just stick him in there and he competes,” the coach said. “We have our doubles coming back and we’ll have a couple other freshmen that’ll be back too. I’m looking forward to it.”
McCleery said he thinks the Warriors will return a solid foundation to take another step forward after qualifying for the postseason this spring.
“I feel like we have a really good team for next year,” said McCleery, who said he’ll continue to train at Mid-Cape in Yarmouth Port throughout the offseason. “From the beginning, you could see how much everyone got better this year.”
Although Bates won’t be a part of next year’s group, he said he’s confident they’ll once again perform well.
“They’re going to do great,” he said.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org.