Dragons take down Lenox to secure PVCICS’ 1st-ever Western Mass. championship (PHOTOS)

Published: 5/26/2023 9:20:04 PM

Modified: 5/26/2023 9:19:49 PM

WEST SPRINGFIELD – Teddy Scott noticed the dust in the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School trophy case.

The runner up trophy from last season’s Western Massachusetts Class C boys tennis final loss against Lee also caught his eye. Scott passed both in the front hall on the way to board the bus to the 2023 edition Friday. PVCICS was headed to the same location, West Springfield High School, but faced a different opponent, Lenox, and eyed a different result.

“I was looking at it like, ‘we’re gonna get one in there,’” Scott said. “We can’t do that again.”

Scott knows what it feels like to lose in the sectional final. He and Clayton English fell at No. 1 doubles last season, while James Scott lost at No. 3 singles in a decisive third set. Five of the Dragons returned to the final and every one of them emerged triumphant in a 4-1 victory.

“It helped having been here before. Before the match on the bus ride here they were disappointed about last year, but they wanted to get in there and win,” PVCICS coach Michael Locher said.

It’s the first sectional title in any sport for a Dragons athletic program in its infancy. PVCICS has only been participating in MIAA sanctioned sports since 2019.

“It’s such an honor and it’s awesome because we’re a small school and our athletic department is really growing, and nobody thought that tennis was going to be the one to do it,” James Scott said. “It’s such a blast to come out here and have a chance to show schools that are a lot bigger than we are and have a lot more kids than we do that we can play with them.”

Junior Clayton English, one of the young team’s elder statesmen, clinched the match when he won 6-3, 6-2 over Lenox’s Michael Piretti at No. 3 singles. He secured the title playing on the same court where Lee took it last season.

“My goal for the game was just to stay consistent, don’t make any unforced errors,” English said. “We’ve had a team for three years, and getting this far in such a short amount of time, I’m pretty proud of the team.”

Aidan Cleary was first off the courts after he defeated Lenox’s Jack O’Brien 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. That began the dominoes.

“I never finish first, ever,” Cleary said. “My matches are always super long.”

PVCICS’ Hugo Shinn quickly closed out his No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-1 over Rocco Piretti.

“I was actually a bit nervous in the beginning. This is the Western Mass. championship finals,” Shinn said. “I was able to start off really well and analyze my player really early on, see where he’s weak and use that to my advantage. I definitely could have been a little more consistent throughout the game. However, I’m really happy with the results.”

The match was decided while the Scotts were deep in the second set at No. 1 doubles against Alex Foster and Niki Ilia. James Scott sprained his ankle earlier in the day but fought through it during the match. Locher offered him the option to retire since they’d already won the title.

James Scott powered through, and the Dragons prevailed 7-5, 6-4.

“That took a weight off our shoulders and helped us play that easy game where we’re just looking to have fun. The responsibility wasn’t completely on us. We didn’t have a real load on our shoulders,” he said. “This whole year, our team’s been awesome. Everybody’s played their part, so we just had to play ours.”

PVCICS’ No. 2 doubles team of Derek and Devan Ye los the opening set 6-1 against Lenox’s Devon Smits and Alessandro Castone before rallying in the second set 7-6 (7-5) to force a tiebreak since the match was already decided. Lenox took the 10-point tiebreak 10-4 to secure a point.

The Dragons will now turn their attention to the state tournament where they are currently the No. 27-ranked team in Division 4. They reached the Round of 16 last season.

“It’ll definitely boost our mentality going into states. Hopefully we’ll be able to carry forward the momentum,” English said. “States is going to be tough, but we’ll play our best and see where we end up.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.

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