Westbrook Working Hard to Net More Success This Year
Senior captain Jonah Freund and the Westbrook boys’ tennis team improved to 5-1 on the season by earning a 4-3 victory versus Morgan on April 20. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/Harbor News)
Senior captain Mason Malchiodi (pictured) teamed up with junior Ryan Engels to win a pair of matches at the No. 1 doubles position for the Knights last week. (File photo by Wesley Bunnell/Harbor News)
The Westbrook boys’ tennis team is coming off of a season that saw the Knights go undefeated in the Shoreline Conference on their way to a record of 21-1 and a spot in the Class S State Tournament final. With a new campaign underway, Head Coach Dan Shapiro said that this year’s squad needs to work just as hard as his 2021 club in order to replicate that type of success.
Things are going pretty good for Westbrook thus far this spring. The Knights are sporting a record of 5-1 after splitting a pair of matches last week, taking a 5-2 loss to Valley Regional and then earning a 4-3 win versus Morgan.
“Last year’s team was incredible. We graduated four key players from last year’s squad, including our No. 1, No. 3, No. 5 [singles players] and one of our No. 1 doubles players,” Coach Shapiro said. “So far, we are 5-1 this year, and we’ve got a good group of kids. I think we’re a little ahead of schedule in terms of how successful we’ve been this year considering how young our team is, but we just need to keep battling, and we’ll see where the season takes us.”
Westbrook lost a 5-2 decision against Valley Regional in its first matchup of the week on April 18. Senior captain Joey Caslin took a 6-3, 6-1 defeat in the No. 1 singles match for Westbrook versus Valley. Sophomore Elliot Koplas claimed a 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 2 singles for the Knights. Senior Jonah Freund lost by a 6-2, 6-4 score at No. 3 singles; and junior Josh Davey took a 6-2, 6-1 loss in the No. 4 singles match. On the doubles, side, Westbrook’s No. 1 team of senior Mason Malchiodi and junior Ryan Engels posted a 6-0, 6-2 victory.
“The negative in this is that we lost and that Valley is better than us in almost every spot. Our No. 1 doubles squad has been awesome this year, and our 2nd singles played an extraordinary match in order for us to even get two points from them,” said Shapiro. “Our 2nd and 3rd doubles teams are all beginners, so we are experiencing some growing pains, but this team never gives up. I’m proud of the fight they continue to show on a week-to-week basis.”
Two days later, Westbrook headed to Clinton to face Morgan and edged out the Huskies by a 4-3 score. Koplas posted a 6-0, 6-0 shutout in the No. 2 singles match. Freund earned a 6-4, 6-0 victory at No. 3 singles; and Davey netted a 7-6, 6-2 win at No. 4 singles. Malchiodi and Engels recorded a 6-0, 6-2 win in the No. 1 doubles match to help the Knights emerge victorious.
“Morgan was missing a few guys, but we were able to pull it out. We played well. It was a very close match,” Shapiro said. “The Morgan No. 1 singles player [Joseph Morse] appears to be the best player in the conference, and it was a pleasure watching him play. We’re excited to go up against Morgan again this year when they are at full strength.”
Caslin, Freund, and Malchiodi are leading the way for Westbrook as the team’s senior captains this season. Coach Shapiro is expecting nothing but the best from his trio of captains, and he feels that they are all proving solid leaders for the Knights.
“What I look for in captains in leadership. Those guys have really shown a commitment to the team. That’s why I made them captains,” said Shapiro. “They’re helping some of the younger players along, and they’re bringing great spirit to the team.”
In addition to the three captains, Justin Tapia is also a member of Westbrook’s senior class this year. The Knights’ junior class includes Davey, Engels, and Enzo Adorno. Freund, Koplas, and Patel are the sophomores on Coach Shapiro’s squad.
“Jonah Freund is someone who I’ve been very impressed with. This is a great group of kids, and they’re all working hard,” said Shapiro. “Josh Davey came back to Westbrook this year, and he’s won some thrilling three-set matches after never having played a varsity match before. The team realizes what he’s meant at 4th singles.”
Coach Shapiro has consistently emphasized three things since he’s become Westbrook’s head coach: skill development, match strategy, and mental toughness. Shapiro feels that his program has been successful in recent years because his players are able to put all three of those components together on the court.
“The kids really buy into those three things. There’s a lot of team camaraderie,” Shapiro said. “In terms of expectations, we’re going to try to finish as high up in the Shoreline as we can and make as big of a run as we can in the state tournament.”
Shapiro wants to continue coaching tennis for as long as he can. In the short term, Westbrook’s coach wants to see the Knights keep working hard in order to reach their team goals by the end of the season.
“My commitment to teaching is high, and I just want to see the kids get better,” Shapiro said. “What I’m trying to always do is keep the message the same. Every team is different. A lot of people like to compare teams. I try to look at each team individually. I’m only worried about this team. At the end of the year, as long as we showed improvement and that we were the best versions of ourselves, then I will be happy.”