By BOB YORK
The dark blue Yale hockey cap that helped fend off some of those biting winds and chilly temperatures that Mother Nature can throw at you during New England’s fickle springs over the past half century, will no longer be a part of Big Green tennis.
Its owner, Jay Morsman, a proud Yale alum who should probably update that cap with one that has “National Champions” embroidered on it, has been the boys varsity tennis coach at Deerfield Academy for the past 28 years. And prior to that, he spent 25 years tutoring at the program’s JV level. Now, after having coached the Big Green to one national prep school title and a pair of New England crowns, Morsman is retiring.
Although this was his good-bye tour throughout the various court surfaces New England prep schools may offer, the veteran mentor summed up the season – no matter what the wins and losses might have been – the same way he always has: “We played hard … we improved … and we had fun.”
Some years, there was probable more of one than another, but this year, his final year, there was plenty of all three.
Morsman, who chalked up well over 1,000 wins during his coaching career at Deerfield, having also tutored in the school’s soccer and hockey programs, saw his final tennis edition conclude with a 10-5 showing. Six of those victories came via shutouts, while two of its five losses were by 4-3 margins.
Gil Roddy (14) proved to be a busy guy this spring, as he stood atop the Big Green’s list of singles players, the joined forces with Cole Horton (14) to make up Deerfield’s number-one doubles team. In all, Roddy rang up a 15-2 record in singles play, then went 14-3 with Horton in doubles. And for his efforts, Roddy was named recipient of the James L. Ford Deerfield Tennis Trophy for the second consecutive year.
The remainder of Deerfield’s singles lineup saw Horton finish off the spring with a 12-1 record as the Big Green’s number-two singles guy, while the third slot went to team captain Justin Schlacks (13), who, at 7-5 this season, was named the winner of this year’s Holton Sayce Memorial Award. The fourth seed was Luke Therrien (15), who finished at 7-2, as Darren Ho (16) was 11-3 at the fifth slot. Lorenzo Munoz (16), meanwhile, chalked up an 8-2 showing as the team’s the sixth-seeded player. Adam Ellison (13) was the number-seven guy, while Ed Michaels went 3-0 in limited action from the eighth seed.
Despite all their accomplishments in singles play, Roddy and his mates knew the secret to success, according to their coach, was getting a jump on the opposition by winning the doubles competition. The veteran mentor was always a big believer in the more doubles matches you win, means the less singles matches you have to win later in the match.
“Coach Morsman always emphasized winning that extra point during the doubles competition … which are always scheduled first,” said Roddy, “because, as he’d say, ‘then all you have to do to ensure the victory is split the six singles matches.”
And during two seasons of doubles action, Roddy and Horton have exhibited time and time again that they are on the same page as their mentor. In two years of serving as doubles partners, this dynamic duo has produced a record of 29-5.
It was quite obvious that the other two Big Green doubles teams believed in helping their mates get an early jump on the opposition as well. The second-seeded duo of Schlacks and Therrien went 10-2 on the season, while the number-three tandem of Ho and Munoz finished up at 9-4.
With that sort of frontal assault, the closest any team would come to beating the Big Green this spring was a distant three-point margin. In addition to its half-dozen shutouts this season, three of which came consecutively at midseason against Northfield Mount Hermon School, Amherst Regional High School and Westminster School, there were 6-1 decisions logged in on Longmeadow High School and Loomis and a pair of 5-2 verdicts over Kingswood-Oxford and Choate.
“Looking back, I think we all can feel pretty good about the season,” said Roddy, whose club finished fourth in the Kingswood-Oxford Tournament, as he was the lone Big Green entrant to make his way to the finals. “We knocked off a couple of powerhouses in Choate and Kingswood and nearly beat a couple of other really strong teams in Andover and Hotchkiss.
“We weren’t able to win any New England championships,” added Roddy, who will serve as captain of next spring’s Deerfield squad, “but we showed we had a pretty good team and I know, as a player, we all sent coach Morsman out with a season he can feel good about.”