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WMass Division 1 boys tennis: Johnson knocks off Chen, but Longmeadow beats Northampton for 21st straight title

  • Aidan O'Brien, who plays second singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stefan Johnson, who plays first singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Will Chen of Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. Visit gazettenet.com for more photos. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jake Duggan, who plays third singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jake Duggan, who plays third singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Aidan O'Brien, who plays second singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Stefan Johnson, who plays first singles for Northampton, returns during his match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chris Raphael-Reily, of Northampton, who plays first doubles with Galen Winsor, returns during their match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Matt Skrzynski, of Northampton, who plays second doubles with Jack Denhart, returns during their match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Galen Winsor, of Northampton, who plays first doubles with Chris Raphael-Reily, returns during their match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Jack Denhart, of Northampton, who plays second doubles with Matt Skrzynski, returns during their match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Chris Raphael-Reily, of Northampton, who plays first doubles with Galen Winsor, returns during their match against Longmeadow in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 final, Monday at Forest Park in Springfield. —GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS



@kylegrbwsk
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

SPRINGFIELD — Longmeadow’s Will Chen hit his first serve of the decisive point against Northampton’s Stefan Johnson into the net.

The players then reset on their respective baselines at the No. 1 singles court. Their tennis match Monday in the Western Massachusetts Division 1 Tournament team final was the fourth time they’d faced off in 2018. Chen won all three — two regular-season matchups and the sectional individual final.

Chen bounced the ball three times in his left, tossed it and served a second time. Johnson returned with a two-handed, cross-court backhand that Chen met with a forehand. It hit the row of nylon just below the white plastic at the top of the net.

“I was stunned, like did this actually happen?” Johnson said. “I was checking around like yeah, that happened.”

Johnson prevailed 7-6 (3) in a first-set tiebreaker after breaking Chen’s serve. They’d traded games holding serve to that point. Johnson led 6-5 before it was tied again 6-all.

“I was tired and super dehydrated. I just kept out-rallying him the whole time,” Johnson said.

Chen jumped to a 2-0 lead in the second set before Johnson tore a hole in his shoes and socks. Eventually, Chen double-faulted on a key game-point, and Johnson held him off 7-5.

“I really didn’t want to go three sets,” Johnson said.

Three of his teammates charged the court and dumped water bottles on his head in celebration.

“It did take kind of a perfect storm, but he’s got the heart of a lion,” Northampton coach Doug Winsor said. “It’s a credit to his big heart.”

The win provided a silver lining for third-seeded Northampton. The top-seeded Lancers won 4-1 to earn their 21st straight sectional title. It was decided after Longmeadow’s second doubles and other two singles teams won in quick succession. Longmeadow will play the Central Mass. champion at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Forest Park.

Longmeadow’s Ethan Purrington beat Jake Duggan 6-1, 6-3 at No. 3 singles.

At No. 2 singles, Aidan O’Brien lost 6-1, 6-4 to Ashvin Babu.

“I didn’t play as well as I would have liked to,” O’Brien said. “He really hustles. He gets to a lot of stuff. He’ll make me hit that extra ball, and that extra ball will cost me the point.”

At first singles, Ben Griffiths and Adam Katz’s 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) win over Galen Winsor and Chris Raphael-Reily clinched the match for Longmeadow.

Luke Stathis and Zach Peterson beat the Blue Devils’ Jack Denhart and Matt Skrzynski 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles.

“They don’t really make mistakes,” Denhart said. “All of our other opponents make mistakes.”

It was the final match for Northampton seniors Galen Winsor, Denhart and Skrzynski. They helped the Blue Devils (15-6) reach its first sectional final in a decade.

“All three of them, as the postseason neared, upped their games. They peaked at the right time,” Doug Winsor said. “They had foundation to take the next step.”

It leaves behind a strong foundation. Johnson is a freshman, O’Brien is a sophomore and Duggan is a junior. There are also players behind the top seven that will fill the available lineup spots.

“They’re going to be a force to reckon with,” Doug Winsor said.