North Attleboro Snaps Sharon’s Hock Win Streak At 123

North Attleboro boys tennis
North Attleboro senior Christian Bermudez returns a shot in the third set at second singles. (Ryan Lanigan/
SHARON, Mass. – Streaks are made to be broken

That was the case on Wednesday afternoon as the North Attleboro boys tennis team beat Sharon, snapping the Eagles’ 123-match unbeaten streak against Hockomock opponents. The last time Sharon suffered a loss to a Hock opponent was May 7th, 2010 — predating the league splitting into two divisions.

The Rocketeers won all five matches, winning a pair of matches in straight sets while taking three others after three sets of play.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Senior Richard Bermudez won 6-2, 6-4 at first singles, senior Christian Bermudez won 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 at second singles, and freshman Jonah Manso battled back to earn a 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-3 win at third singles.

The team of senior Ben Pfeffer and Vikram Senthilakumaran pulled out a win after three sets (6-3, 2-6, 6-3) and sophomore Alex Pfeffer and Sam Gallagher won an all-important tiebreak in the first set to gain momentum for the second, prevailing 7-6 (5), 6-3.

“We’ve had some great practices and we’ve been working hard,” said North Attleboro head coach Mike Lacasse. “They were ready today. A lot of the younger kids didn’t know about Sharon’s streak. It was pretty evenly matched every match. It was a great day overall for North Attleboro tennis.”

Sharon, which has won 38 straight league titles dating back to 1980, lost to the Rocketeers 3-2 in 2010. After that, they finished the season with six more league wins before going 14-0 in each 2011 and 2012. They went unbeaten in league play (16-0) in each of the last five years and won the first nine matches of this season.

“It’s amazing,” said Sharon head coach Joan Cutter of the streak. “I have been very fortunate with the level of talent that has come through. I say it year after year. The parents get them to their lessons and the clinics, and the kids are determined. On top of that, they are all in clubs and do all sorts of great stuff. But it’s not a bad thing to lose here, it shows the kids they still have work to do.”

“You always look forward to playing good teams, and Sharon is always a good team,” Lacasse said. “We’ll see them again back at our place at the end of the season and we know they are going to be ready to go so we will have to be too. But we have to focus on Franklin on Friday first.”

North’s first point came from Richard Bermudez at first singles. Both Richard and his twin brother Christian are in their first year with the Rocketeers after transferring in from Venezuela. In a quick first set, Bermudez won 6-2 against Sharon’s Fred Bondar, who has been one of the top singles players in the Hock over the past couple of seasons.

Bondar grabbed a 2-1 lead in the second set but Bermudez battled back, winning three straight to go up 4-3. They each won a game before the North Attleboro senior was able to finish it off and get Big Red its first point.

“He played really well today,” Lacasse said of Richard Bermudez. “When the other kids see that he’s winning, or when he wins the match, their confidence grows too. So it was good for him to get the first point.”

The Rocketeers’ second point came from first doubles. The team of Ben Pfeffer and Senthilakumaran fell behind 1-2 to Sharon’s Max Brody and Russell Rapaport but rallied to win five of the next six games to take the first set 6-3. Brody and Rapaport proved why they are one of the top doubles teams in the area by bouncing back with an impressive 6-2 win in the second set.

But Pfeffer and Senthilakumaran settled back down, taking the final three games to earn a 6-3 win in the third set to put the Rocketeers up 2-0.

“The guys came together and started to really communicate and figure out what was going to work for them moving forward,” Lacasse said. “They used that and they were successful in the third set. The kids who were still playing got to feed off of that too.”

North sealed the win by getting its second win in doubles play, as Alex Pfeffer and Gallagher won in straight sets. After leading 5-2, Sharon’s Arie Chinnappan and Ashwin Sreevatsa battled back to win the next three games to make it 5-5. They split the next two games, forcing the first set into a tiebreaker.

Pfeffer and Gallagher trailed 1-2 and 2-3 before eventually tying it 4-4. Sharon closed the gap to get within one, down 6-5, but the Rocketeers finished it off to take the first set 7-6 (5). That momentum carried into the second set where Pfeffer and Gallagher won 6-3, securing the win for North.

“Those two kids have great mentalities, they are very even-keeled,” Lacasse said of his second doubles teams. “They don’t get too high or too low, they just play the next point so that helps in those close matches.”

Although the win was intact, North’s Christian Bermudez (second singles) and Jonah Manso (third singles) continued to battle in the third set.

Christian Bermudez won the first set 6-3 but Sharon senior Andre Olivei battled back to take the second set 6-4, sending it into a third set. Bermudez proved to be too much though, taking the final set 6-1 to make it 4-0.

“They are very talented, and they work at their game all year,” Cutter said of the Bermudez brothers. “They do what needs to be done to play the really strong kids in the state.”

It looked as though Manso was going to suffer his first loss of the season, dropping the first set 4-6, and trailing 4-5 in the second set to Sharon junior Danujan Thirumavalavan. But the freshman got stronger as the match went on, tying it at 6-6 to send it into a tiebreaker. Manso emerged with a 7-4 decision in the tiebreaker to tie it 1-1 and sending it into a third set.

Manso took care of business in the third set, giving North it’s fifth point with a 6-3 win.

“I think it says a lot about Jonah and his worth ethic,” Lacasse said. “He has the mentality of being able to let go of shots that don’t go his way and just move on. It serves him well, especially in those matches like this one that are competitive or go into the third set.”

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The two teams will meet again on May 23rd, which is currently North’s last league game. The Rocketeers now hold the longest streak for boys tennis with 11 straight league wins, all coming this season.

“The kids are now excited for the next game against North,” Cutter said. “And we were just talking, it seems the level of talent in the Hock is up this year. King Philip is good, Franklin is there. It’s good because we don’t want to get to individuals and the state tournament without any competition. This is good for us to get that competition.”

North Attleboro boys tennis (11-0 Hockomock, 11-0 overall) is back in action on Friday when it travels to Franklin. Sharon (9-1, 9-1) is back in action on Thursday, hosting Bishop Feehan.

Sharon Girls Tennis Soars To First State Championship

Sharon girls tennis
The Sharon boys and girls tennis teams pose for a photo after their state final matches. (Bill Martin/Twitter)
SHREWSBURY, Mass. — Sharon girls’ tennis coach Diane Micheroni had a simple message to her two doubles teams as the Eagles soared through their journey to St. John Shrewsbury’s tennis complex Wednesday afternoon.

“On the bus I looked at my doubles and said, ‘We’re going to have to count on you today,'” Micheroni said. “‘You’re going to have to pull through and play smart tennis.'”

With the Eagles holding onto a narrow 2-1 lead and Longmeadow’s No. 2 singles making a late push, Sharon needed to count on its second doubles pair of junior Rithika Neti and freshman Sophia Fein to cap off its perfect season.

After splitting the first two sets 6-3 and 3-6, Neti and Fein saved their best tennis of the evening for the most critical moment of the Eagles’ season. The duo was in sync on almost every serve and returned everything the Lancers hit their way. After returning a serve, Neti returned a volley that hit off Longmeadow rocket and out to secure a 26-0 record and a Division 1 state championship – the first in program history.

“I just don’t even know, I don’t know what to say,” Neti said as she was holding back tears of joy after the match win. “It was just, finally. I mean honestly this was such a team effort and we put in so many hours and so much work all season. To win the state championship for the team, it’s really awesome.”

“There was a lot of pressure on them and they stood to it and they took the victory,” Micheroni said of the No. 2 doubles partners. “They weren’t going to let them take it away from them. I’m proud of them.”

The Eagles jumped out to an early lead after junior Lulu Yuan swept No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-0. Yaun finished the season undefeated at third singles in match play. Lancer No. 1 single Iris Gallo was very impressive, defeating Sharon sophomore Nupur Shukla 6-1, 6-1 to tie the match at one.

Echoing Micheroni’s earlier statements, Sharon’s No. 1 doubles pair of Junior Katie Merport and Emily Wen took care of business in straight sets 6-2, 6-4.

With the No. 2 singles match taking an intermission before the tie-breaking set after Lancer Hallie Gallo took the first set 6-4 and Sharon freshman Emily Zhang winning the second 6-4, almost everyone in attendance shifted their focus to the second doubles pair.

Despite Hallie Gallo eventually winning the tie-breaker 6-4, for Longmeadow the Eagles had already been crowned champions
“My doubles teams came through in this match,” Micheroni said. “The singles get a lot of attention, but I always say titles and championships are won by your doubles and they came through. They did come through today. I’m very proud of them – the whole team.”

Sharon Athletic Director Bill Martin praised Micheroni’s leadership and how Sharon hopes to remain a successful program for years to come.

“They’re bringing a state championship home with a team that’s basically all going to return next year — we have one senior on the team,” Martin said. “We have a head coach and two assistants that have been class acts and have taught our kids unbelievable lessons throughout the year. I mean, they’re 26-0. What more can you ask for?”

As sweet of a moment Wednesday’s win was for the entire Eagles team and community, it even meant a little bit extra to Sophia Fein.

Following the No. 2 doubles win and amidst her teammate’s hugs and screams of jubilation at the center of Court 5, Sophia turned and found one of her biggest supporters, mentors and role models standing there to greet her.

Her brother, Griffin, a two-time Hockomock League MVP, awaited with open arms as his younger sister walked off the court a state champion after he had rushed over from across town following the boys’ championship match earlier that afternoon.

“He’s the tennis star of the family, but he’s brought me up in it,” Sophia said. “Every time before I have a match he texts me good luck. He’s like, ‘hit hard, you know how to do this.’ For him to be here, to see the last couple of points, especially since he’s normally playing when I’m playing, he hasn’t really gotten a chance to watch me. That was pretty special.”

Said Martin: “That’s what sports are supposed to be about — relationships. You don’t often see the relationships between brother and sister in high school sports. Griffin is one of the classiest kids I’ve ever met. Great family. I’m just getting to know Sophia and it’s a credit to what they are as a family because they support each other. It makes you proud to be an Eagle.”

With the boys’ side having a long, decorated history and the entire team in attendance to support their counterparts, this was the first state championship appearance for the girls team in school history. The Eagles’ 26-0 mark also is the best season in the program’s history.

“It’s just something that you always dream of that you could attain, but they did it and they pulled it off,” Micheroni said. “That’s just such a hard thing to do.”

“This is an awesome team and an awesome lineup,” Neti said. “I’m so proud of everyone on this team. Every single one. It got us through the season, won matches for us.”

Wayland’s singles too much to handle

Earlier in the afternoon, the boys’ team sought redemption from their 2015 state championship defeat against Wayland High School after the Warriors narrowly took the title 3-2 two years ago.

Wayland once again got the better of the Eagles, sweeping singles play en route to a 4-1 victory in the Eastern Massachusetts boys’ Division 2 Final at Shrewsbury High School.

“I knew how good their singles were,” Griffin Fein said. “We were confident in our doubles, always — our doubles are so good. This is what we expected. We expected the state championship to be this tough and that’s what we got. We’re happy with whatever the outcome is. We played out best.”

With the Eagles already behind 2-0 after victories in singles No. 1 and 3, junior Fred Bondar battled back and forth with the Warriors’ Jaylen Wang in the second singles match. Wang took the first set 7-6 (7-4) and ended up taking the second 6-3 with Bondar battling calf cramps in a frame that was much closer than the final score indicated.

“It’s always tough going up against Jaylen [Wong]. He’s a great player,” Bondar said, the two had previously faced-off in the 2015 contest. “There are very few things that I would go back and change if I could. I gave it my all and frankly I thought I played pretty well.”

“I think he played better than I did. I wasn’t cramping in the first set and he took that.” Bondar added. “I just think when I was coming back in the second set I gave it my all, but my right calf was sort of giving out. I don’t think that made or break anything. I still gave it my all and gave my best.”

Griffin Fein dropped No. 1 singles against Georgetown-bound Charlie Sharton 6-0, 6-1, while Wayland’s Will Barton also gave the Warriors an early lead defeating Andre Olivei 6-2, 6-1 putting Sharon in an early hole.

Much like Wang and Bondar, Fein and Sharton also faced each other in the 2015 final with Sharton winning in straight sets.

“I knew it was going to be the same kind of situation going into the match and I wanted to give him a battle. I had some good points against him today,” Griffin Fein said. “I had to play perfect if I wanted to beat him. … he’s just a hell of a player.”

Alex Romantz and Alberto Olivei took home the lone Sharon victory of the day in No. 1 doubles. The pair dropped the first set 6-7 (6-8) but would rally back to defeat Wayland’s Gage Fuller and Will Gardner in set two, 6-3, and three, 6-1. Romantz and Olivei finished unbeaten as a team in 2017.

In No. 2 doubles, the Eagles’ Danujan Thirumavalavan and Max Brody took the first set 6-3, before dropping the second and third sets, both by a score of 7-5.

“We knew [the Warriors] were tough,” Sharon coach Joan Cutter said. “We’ve come so far, we had a great season with great guys and they’ve worked really hard. They were 23-0.”

Despite the Eagles coming up just short of the championship, Cutter had nothing but good things to say about their season as a whole.

“They’re just the best people,” Cutter added. “I love it. I love their effort and their dedication. It’s just been a wonderful story — the whole thing.”

Sharon Sweeps Scituate To Advance To D2 State Final

Sharon boys tennis
Sharon’s Alex Romantz prepares to return a shot at the net in first doubles play. (Ryan Lanigan/
ROCKLAND, Mass. – Although it was just one game a season, the Sharon boys tennis team has developed somewhat of a rivalry with Duxbury.

The teams met in the D2 South Semifinal in 2013, and in the D2 South Final each of the last three years.

And with Sharon situated as the top seed and Duxbury seeded second, it looks like the two were on a collision course for another showdown.

But shortly after the Eagles booked their ticket to their fourth straight final, Duxbury was stunned by third-seeded Scituate in the semifinal, erasing any chance for Sharon to exact revenge for a year ago.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

The change of opponent, however, didn’t change the goal: the Eagles were determined to get back to the state final.

“It’s a different look than what we were used to,” said Sharon head coach Joan Cutter. “We beat Duxbury (2015) and they’ve beat us a couple of times so I think we were ready to play them again. It gave us sort of a different attitude coming in.”

With a 5-0 sweep – winning four matches in straight sets — Sharon is headed back to the D2 State/EMass Final. The Eagles will take on Wayland, the North champions, in a rematch from 2015.

“I think we had a good shot of beating [Duxbury] this season, our match ups looked good against them,” admitted Sharon senior and first singles player Griffin Fein. “We knew me and Fred [Bondar] would have tough matches but after that, I have a lot of confidence in the rest of the team how they are playing right now so we felt good no matter who we played. I’m happy how things went today and we’re happy to be going back to the finals.”

“I was definitely looking forward to playing Duxbury again, we were a little surprised when we saw the result,” said Sharon senior and first doubles player Alex Romantz. “We had talked a lot through the year about getting ready for Duxbury for a rematch from last year.

“We kind of had a chip on our shoulder from last year so we really made it a goal to get back here and make it to the state final. Even though it wasn’t Duxbury, we’re definitely happy to be back in the state championship.”

While it wasn’t Duxbury, the Eagles were certainly prepared for Scituate, who proved they belong by eliminating the Dragons in the tournament despite losing in the regular season.

The Eagles were on point from the get-go. Fein won the first five games of the first set at first singles, Fred Bondar took four wins in the first five games in the first set at second singles and Andre Olivei jumped out to a 4-1 lead as well.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

“Once we saw it wasn’t them, we just had to treat it like a regular match, and just go out there and play our best,” Fein said. “Whether it was Duxbury or not, our goal was to make it to the state finals and that’s what we were able to do.”

Both doubles teams had success early on as well. Romantz continued his stellar season with freshman Alberto Olivei, quickly posting a 6-2 win in the first set before most other matches were halfway through the same set.

And in second doubles play, Danujan Thirumavalavan and Max Brody went up 2-1 and kept that lead. The Eagles’ sophomore pairing went up 3-2, then 4-3 before finishing off the first set 6-3.

Romantz and Olivei, who are unbeaten as a team so far in match play this season, kept up their quick pace and registered the match’s first point with a 6-2, 6-1 win.

Romantz played second doubles during his sophomore year with Han Cui, and then moved up to first doubles last year with senior Adam Dobbins. Now, the senior is with his third partner in as many years – and this time around, a freshman.

“Alberto’s been a great partner,” Romantz said, “We definitely have some rock solid chemistry now, we’ve been hitting the ball well all season long. We had some bumps here and there but no losses yet. We’re a good pair together, our games compliment each other really well. With my serve and his net game, it works well for us.”

“He’s got that lefty serve that is so hard, and it’s so hard to return,” Cutter said of Romantz. “He’s just got a vicious put away shot. He serves and then either he or his partner finishes well. He’s very aggressive and he’s kind of got a fearless attitude.”

Bondar put Sharon up 2-0 in the match, cruising through the second set to record a 6-1, 6-1 win at second singles.

Just over 10 minutes later, the Eagles clinched the match when Fein completed a 6-1, 6-2 win at first singles.

“My serve was pretty solid today, my backhand wasn’t as solid as usual though,” Fein said. “My forehand has been a lot cleaner the last couple of weeks so that was helping so I was able to control a lot of points that way.”

Thirumavalavan and Brody pulled out a close second set to earn a 6-3, 7-5 win at second doubles to make it 4-0.

Andre Olivei won the first set (6-2) but trailed throughout the second set, eventually dropping it (4-6). In a 10-point tiebreaker, Olivei completed the sweep for Sharon, finishing with a 6-2, 4-6 (10-6) win.

Sharon boys tennis (23-0) will take on Wayland (16-2) on Tuesday in the D2 State Final at 4:00 at Saint John’s of Shrewsbury.

Click here for a photo gallery from this game.

Sharon Boys, Girls Tennis Both Ousted In South Final

Sharon tennis
Sharon’s Emily Wen and Adam Dobbin compete in the South Final. (Ryan Lanigan/

ROCKLAND, Mass. – Not many teams have been able to beat the Sharon boys and girls tennis teams this year, and it took an extraordinary effort for it to happen in the sectional finals.

Wellesley girls used a win at third singles, a tiebreaker win in the second set at first singles and a third set victory at second doubles for the Raiders to beat the Sharon girls, 3-2 in the D1 South Final.

And the Duxbury boys took a win in straight sets at first singles and then fended off rallies at second and third singles, winning both in three sets to edge the Sharon boys, 3-2 in the D2 South Final.

The Sharon girls team was up first, facing off against the top-seeded Raiders (19-0). The Eagles were able to jump out to a lead with wins at first doubles and second singles to go up 2-0.

Freshman Nupur Shulka concluded her stellar rookie campaign with a quick 6-4, 6-2 win at second singles. Shulka rallied from a 3-4 deficit in the first set with three straight wins to clinch the first set. The freshman was in control throughout in the second set, jumping out to a 4-1 lead before finishing off Wellesley’s Caitlyn Avery.

“And she’s going to be even better next year,” beamed Sharon head coach Diane Micheroni. “She’s determined, she plans on working hard all of summer so we’re excited for next year, we want to build a powerhouse in both singles and doubles.”

The Eagles were forced to mix up their doubles teams after senior Pooja Puttigampala, a four time league all star, was forced to miss the match with a death in the family. Katie Merport made the jump from second doubles to pair up with Michal Kondratiev

The switch didn’t hurt the Eagles though as the two led throughout the entire match, picking up a 6-3, 6-3 win.

Wellesley battled back with Ashley Avery, the South sectional individual champion this season, getting a 6-3 win in the first set and then taking a thrilling 9-7 tiebreaker to get a 7-6 win in the second set over Sharon sophomore Lulu Yuan. Wellesley tied the game at 2-2 with a win at third singles in straight sets.

“She certainly battled,” Micheroni said. “Am I surprised? No. I know she has the capability, she has a great game and we’re excited to have her back next year.”

Sharon’s newly formed second doubles team of Rithica Neti and Sydney Gordon, who had only played together once before, battled back from a 3-4 deficit in the second set, eventually scoring a 7-3 win in a tiebreaker to get the 7-6 win and force a third set.

“What they did today was very impressive,” Micheroni said. “Especially with Sydney stepping into a situation where she hasn’t seen much. She hasn’t played in any playoff matches yet, she was fantastic though, I couldn’t ask more for her.”

Wellesley’s pair of Pooja Reddy and Alexis Tsang showed off their experience together, scoring a 6-2 victory in the final set to secure the match and the title.

“I’m proud of the girls,” Micheroni said. “They are a great team and they fought hard. It came down to the third set, so what more could you ask. The kids were great all year and all of the matches were close today.”

“We look strong for next year,” Micheroni said. “We’re losing both of our number one doubles [to graduation] but our number two doubles should be able to step right up. They were split up today but I think Katie Merport and Rithica Neti are ready to step up next year. Then we have some freshman, some JV kids that are just waiting for their turn. Our plan is to be here again next year.”

The top-seeded Sharon boys team jumped out to a quick lead as well in their match against #2 Duxbury but the Dragons fired off wins at all three singles matches to get the win.

“They are just an amazing group of very smart, devoted, hardworking guys,” Sharon head coach Joan Cutter said.

The Eagles absolutely dominated doubles play, taking a lead right off the bat in both matches and never looked back.

Freshman Danujan Thirumavalavan and senior Tilak Mehta dominated at second doubles, losing just one match in a 6-1, 6-0 win to give Sharon a 1-0 lead.

Adam Dobbin and Alex Romantz both had strong serves and used the full court to their advantage with a handful of nice shots down the line. The pair, which has been terrific all season, concluded their season with a 6-3, 6-1 win and gave the Eagles a 2-0 lead.

“The doubles have really learned to play together as a team,” Cutter said. “Every time I went over there, they were fine. They did what they needed to do, they were great. And they all want to be playing singles too. Tilak and Danujan really wanted to play singles but they were willing to learn to play doubles together.”

Duxbury’s Eric Sewald brought the Dragons right back in, using a torrid serve to sweep Sharon’s Griffin Fein, the Hockomock League MVP this year, 6-0, 6-0 at first singles.

Sharon sophomore Fred Bondar impressed with a comeback at second singles after losing the first set. Bondar settled in and picked up a 6-4 win in the second set but Duxbury’s Ethan Mall tied the match 2-2 with a win in the third set.

That meant the match came down to Sharon senior Han Cui, who entered the contest unbeaten this season, and Duxbury junior Jack Simon.

Simon overcame an early deficit to take the first set, 6-4. Cui did the same in the second set, coming back to win 6-3 and force a deciding third set. Simon jumped out to a 4-1 lead and then a 5-2 advantage. Cui fought off match point twice to win two sets to close the gap to one. Cui carried the momentum and looked to have tied the match when his long floated shot hit the line but his shot was called out, clinching the win for Duxbury.

“Han’s just amazing, he’s so steady,” Cutter said. “He’s going to Dartmouth next year. I think he was actually a little nervous. His opponent played very well in the first set but Han got in there in the second, he’s very analytical and figures out his opponent and how to play him. In the third set, his opponent played very. very well.

“He played his own style, his own way. If anyone could have done it, with that kind of pressure, it would be Han.”

Sharon girls tennis finishes the season at 19-1 but the future looks bright with all three singles players back as well as second doubles. Sharon boys tennis finishes 20-2 overall and will bring back both first and second singles, as well as Alex Romantz and Danujan Thirumavalavan from doubles play.