A thrilling New England "A" Championship tournament
QUARTER-FINALS Groton traveled to Choate at the crack of dawn on Saturday for what they thought would be a morning of quarterfinals, and, should that go well, an afternoon of semi-finals. The intense heat of the afternoon, however, resulted in the semi-finals being postponed to Sunday morning indoors at Groton. Choate's superb trainers and athletic directors worked with the tournament committee to make the change of plans, thinking first and foremost of the health of the participating athletes.. The morning quarter-final play included Groton vs. Hopkins. It was a superb match. Hopkins has a deep and talented team as well as a fine coaching staff, and the match came down to the very last two players on the courts. Jared Gura was the Groton player. Previous to these final minutes of play, Groton had won the doubles point thanks to sharp play by Will Vrattos / Larry Li, winners at #2, and Griffin Gura / Trip Wight's prowess at #3. Ben Jones / Jared Gura were leading, but, once the doubles point is secured, play stops on the final match. In singles, Trip Wight and Jack Lionette struck first for Groton with victories. Groton had three points. One more match was needed. Who could close it out? Ben Jones lost a hard-fought battle. Then Griffin Gura fell in his deciding tiebreaker. Larry Li also succumbed in a final tie-breaker to a very strong player. So, the quarter-final would be decided by Jared. He had won the first set and led in the second until his opponent turned things around, sending that second set into a tie-breaker. Hopkins won that tie-breaker. Consequently, the match would come down to the 10-point super tie-breaker. Hopkins went out to a 5-3 lead, before Jared turned things around dramatically, reeling off the final seven points for a 10-5 victory. All Groton players congratulated Jared with gusto, knowing he had just secured a berth for them against Choate in the semi-finals.
SEMI-FINALS Groton played beautiful tennis in the semi-finals at home on Sunday against Choate. The boys quickly won the doubles point, and then reeled off three more singles match victories, starting with Trip Wight, then Larry Li, and culminating in Ben Jones's clinching victory. Onto the finals!
THE FINALS The finals was a rematch against Brunswick, the team that Groton also faced in 2019, the last time the tournament was played before the pandemic. The match was thrilling, featuring some of the finest play ever in an "A" final. Brunswick earned the doubles point, coming back after losing at #3 with victories at #1 and #2. In singles, Trip Wight (#4) evened the score with a sparkling straight-set win at #4. Ben Jones then fell at #3, yet Griffin Gura won an exciting match to even the score 2-2. Jared Gura then lost at #2 in straight sets. Brunwick 3 – Groton 2.
The final matches featured Larry Li at #1 and Jack Lionette at #6. Larry had lost his first set; Jack had won his first. Yet, Larry then battled back to win his second, while Jack lost his second. Each match was headed to a super tie-breaker – first player to ten points, wins. If Groton could win each, the championship was theirs! Larry quickly went down 8-4, yet then battled back to tie the match at 10-10. The boys would keep playing points until one of them was winning by two. Remarkably, here is how the next twelve points unfolded from Larry’s vantage: 11-10, 11-11, 12-11, 12-12, 13-12, 13-13, 13-14, 14-14, 15-14, 15-15, 15-16, 15-17. The shot making was amazing. Both boys played with heart and style. This match was decided by a whisker. With four points earned, Brunswick had defeated Groton. Though Jack Lionette was ahead in his super-tiebreaker, his match, by tournament rules, was suspended.
It was a tough ending for a wonderful run at this tournament. Groton earned a position in the “A” finals the past three years, two of the years as the #1 seed. That, in itself, is a remarkable accomplishment. The play truly was amazing this weekend. Commented Señor Conner: “These athletes played with heart and conviction. They were buoyed by a large group of fans who came out to cheer on the squad. The level of play, hands down, is the best I ever remember at this tournament. Larry’s match, in particular, had so much drama, so much shot-making, so much brilliance. I will remember this entire Brunswick match forever. Groton can hold its head high …. I am so proud of these remarkable young men.”