NEWTON — The magical season of the Lynnfield Pioneers boys tennis team came to a close yesterday afternoon with 3-2 loss to defending state champion Weston in the championship match of the Division 3 North tournament at Newton South High School.
The match was full of dramatic moments, the most surprising of which occured off the court before the start of the match when Weston coach George Conlin received a phone call informing him that two of his starting seven had been suspended earlier that day, allegedly for having cigars at the school’s June 7 graduation.
Weston had clinched its spot in the north final June 11, some four days after graduation with a 5-0 sweep over Ipswich.
“I got a call at 1 p.m. today that my first singles and half of my first doubles team were suspended,” said Conlin. “All I can say is they are all good kids, and it was the wrong way to tell them.”
Lynnfield coach Joe Dunn Sr. said that he first learned of the suspension just minutes before the match when it was announced to both teams.
“Their coach said it was a cigar incident and all I told my team was to focus on playing tennis and nothing else,” he said. “I just hoped it wasn’t a distraction because we came ready to play, but all we could do is just play our game.”
The match was a battle from start to finish and ending with a third singles showdown that took 2½ hours to complete, with Weston Josh Li rallying from a one-set deficit to win in three sets, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3, defeating Lynnfield senior captain Colin Lamusta to clinch the match.
“It was pressure-packed and was not easy being the only match left on the court, but Colin and all of the team gave it their best shot,” said Dunn. “He could not have given a better effort and kept the pressure on his opponent by taking charge of every point to create some great opportunities, but the other kid was able to pass him a few times when Colin came to the net.
“It was a good hard-fought match, but a tough one as I am sure we all were hoping for a different result. But that’s tennis.”
Weston took the top two singles matches, with Masaki Nawa defeating senior Max Rothermund 6-0, 6-3 at first singles and Jacob Gilligan defeating senior captain Arlex Correa, 6-2, 6-2 at second singles.
The Pioneers swept both double matches to set up the winner-take-all third singles match. Senior Lorenzo Russo and Michael Gentile defeated Alex Chaoul and Michael Philipkosky at first doubles, 6-1, 6-2, while freshman Jamil Khodr and junior David Gentile prevailed at second doubles over Tom Cochran and Logan Brand, 7-5, 6- 2.
With the score tied at 2-2, Lamusta/Li were center stage for nearly an hour before the match was finally settled. Lamusta, up a set and ahead 6-5, let a huge opportunity slip away in the second set and needed just two points to break Li’s serve and take the matchup, but could not convert, losing the set in a tie-breaker.
While the Pioneers’ loss spoiled their bid for an undefeated season (they finished 17-1), its first north title since 1986, and its first state title in program history, Dunn said his team gave it their all.
“I could not be more proud of them as they fought all year long but just lost to a very good team that was just a little better than us today,” he said. “These kids worked hard all year long, including in the offseason and last summer, all on their own, so I feel terrific about what the accomplished. We never talked about being undefeated, we took it one match at a time, It was a great run and a lot of fun, so my hat is off to my players, no doubt about it. Personally, I had so much fun being a part of this team and have no complaints, not even going back to early spring when we were shoveling snow off the courts.”