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WMass Division 3 boys tennis: South Hadley upends Belchertown for first sectional championship

  • The South Hadley boys tennis team received the sectional trophy and a championship banner after the Tigers defeated Belchertown 3-2 in the Division 3 championship match Friday at Forest Park in Springfield. GAZETTE STAFF / KYLE GRABOWSKI—

  • Max Caron, who plays third singles for Belchertown, returns during his match against John Parenteau, of South Hadley, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • John Parenteau, who plays third singles for South Hadley, returns during his match against Max Caron, of Belchertown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael Zhou, who plays second singles for South Hadley, returns during his match against Noah Pare, of Belchertown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday at Forest Park in Springfield. South Hadley won 3-2 to clinch its first sectional championship. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Michael Zhou, who plays second singles for South Hadley, returns during his match against Noah Pare, of Belchertown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Connor Barbacki, who plays first singles for South Hadley, returns against Cyrus Raines, of Belchertown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Noah Pare, who plays second singles for Belchertown, returns during his match against Michael Zhou, of South Hadley, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nolan Vogel, of Belchertown, who plays first doubles with Mike Laughner, returns during their match against South Hadley during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Cyrus Raines, who plays first singles for Belchertown, returns during his match against Connor Barbacki, of South Hadley, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zach Kotfila, of South Hadley, who plays first doubles with Jack Canavan Gosselin, returns during their match against Belchertown, during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Connor Berenson, of Belchertown, who plays second doubles with Sean McCarthy, returns during their match against South Hadley during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Mike Laughner, of Belchertown, who plays first doubles with Nolan Vogel, returns during their match against South Hadley during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Nate Piligian, of South Hadley, who plays second doubles with Gavin Lipp, returns during their match against Belchertown during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Sean McCarthy, of Belchertown, who plays second doubles with Connor Berenson, returns during their match against South Hadley during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gavin Lipp, of South Hadley, who plays second doubles with Nate Piligian, returns during their match against Belchertown during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jack Canavan Gosselin, of South Hadley, who plays first doubles with Zach Kotfila, returns during their match against Belchertown during the Western Massachusetts Division 3 final, Friday, June 8, 2018 at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Saturday, June 09, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — South Hadley’s fate in the Western Massachusetts Division 3 Tournament title match rested on Connor Barbacki’s racquet.

He needed a win in the third set at No. 1 singles against Belchertown’s Cyrus Raines to claim the sectional title. The Tigers wouldn’t have it any other way.

“If the match is going to ride on someone, it’s going to be him,” South Hadley coach Dan Dubuc said.

Barbacki came through. He beat Raines 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 to secure a 3-2 victory over Belchertown and give South Hadley the first Western Mass. title in program history at Forest Park. They’ll play the Central Mass. champion June 18 at Forest Park.

“I never really imagined it from when I started to play,” said Barbacki, a senior. “It was big, being the first Western Mass. I won in my last season of high school sports.”

He had to fight back for it. Raines won the first set behind decisive serves.

“He was a little shy in the first set, and I took advantage of that,” Raines said. “He started to get comfortable in the second set. When he’s comfortable, he’ll paint the line on you almost every time.”

Barbacki captured Set 2 with a resounding 6-1 score then won the third set 6-1, capitalizing on the momentum he gained.

“I felt really confident going into the third,” Barbacki said.

His win completed a comeback of sorts for third-seeded South Hadley (12-8). No. 1 Belchertown (17-4) won the first two matches to push to the brink of a title for the second year in a row.

The Orioles’ Max Caron defeated John Parenteau 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles to open the scoring.

“My serve was on right from the start today,” Caron said. “I don’t think he handled it all that well.”

At No. 1 doubles, Mike Laughner and Nolan Vogel finished off Zach Kotfila & Jack Canavan-Gosselin 6-2, 6-4 for a 2-0 lead in the match.

“We had our strokes going for us in the first set,” Laughner said. “The second set ended up being a battle.”

Belchertown coach Zach Siano didn’t relax. He still paced the fence nervously, bouncing a tennis ball on the concrete.

“The reason for some of that discomfort was watching some of these guys playing and their seeming lack of focus,” he said. “It was our undoing. We had to do everything wrong today, and they had to do everything right. Dan (Dubuc) put together a great game plan for them.”

Even though Belchertown was up 2-0 in the match, it trailed by a set in two of the remaining matches, and No. 1 singles was heading to Set 3.

“It was still really early,” Dubuc said.

South Hadley’s Michael Zhou beat Noah Pare 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 singles to keep the Tigers alive. Pare beat Zhou both times when the teams played in the regular season.

“I changed my mentality to being calm and hitting side to side,” Zhou said.

South Hadley’s No. 2 doubles team of Gavin Lipp and Nathan Piligian quickly followed suit against Sean McCarthy and Connor Berenson. They won a tight 7-6 first set in a 7-3 tiebreak then jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the second set.

“We wanted to hit a lot of deep cross-courts and catch them on the volleys at the net,” Piligian said.

The Orioles didn’t roll over. They won four games in a row before the Tigers ended it 6-4. It avenged two losses in the regular season.

“We’ve been working very hard to play them,” Lipp said. “We’ve been practicing indoors on rainy days for this moment.”

Barbacki completed the comeback minutes later. South Hadley lost two matches to Belchertown in the regular season before flipping the script in the sectional final.

“As goofy as they are, we can’t let that distract from how hard they work,” Dubuc said of his team. “This has been very special for me to be a part of a group of young men that just works.”

On the other side, Belchertown lost in the sectional final for the fourth straight year. Mount Greylock defeated the Orioles in the previous three.

“You’re going into it and it kind of gets to you because you want to break that streak, but at the same time it’s tough to break that streak,” Raines said. “Nerves start kicking in a little bit.”

Belchertown opted out of receiving the second-place trophy afterwards. The Orioles still lined up and shook South Hadley’s hands to show respect for their opponents, they just didn’t want to fake smiles for a photo opportunity.

“We just wanted to get out of here, we’re not going through the whole song and dance,” Siano said.

It was the final match for Belchertown’s six seniors: Raines, Pare, Laughner, Vogel, McCarthy and Berenson.

“Some of those guys pushed our program forward and prolonged our success coming out their sophomore year,” Siano said. “I can be disappointed, but I would never be upset with them because of the success they’ve pushed for us.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com.