By BOB YORK –
To say the end of an era came to a close this spring for the Deerfield Academy boys tennis program would be an understatement. In reality, two eras came to a close on May 17. One belonged to Jay Morsman, the program’s long-time mentor. The other belonged to Gil Roddy, one of the premier players in Big Green history.
Morsman, who led Deerfield to one national prep school title as well as a pair of New England crowns, originally announced his retirement last spring, but ended up staying on “for just one more year.” And that one more year gives Morsman a total of 54 years of tutoring Deerfield tennis players. He spent his first 25 years at his alma mater coaching the school’s junior varsity team and his last 29 heading up the varsity program. During his half century with the Big Green, Morsman also spent time tutoring the school’s hockey and soccer teams and if one ever added up his combined wins and losses, this prep school coaching icon would have well over 1,000 victories.
The Deerfield skipper probably summarized his latest campaign with the varsity the exact same way he reflected on his rookie season with the JVs by saying “we played hard … we improved … and we had fun,” after his charges sent him into retirement with a 10-5 record.
Morsman wasn’t exactly presented with a rocking chair during his good-bye tour by each of his opponents, but he could have sat in one during some of those matches. His players made a portion of his final season as pleasant as possible, chalking up seven of their wins by margins of either 7-0 or 6-1, blanking such teams as Northfield Mount Hermon, Williston and Cheshire and allowing Loomis and Suffield only a single point. Their other half-dozen encounters got a little interesting, however.
Their three other wins–against Andover, which won this year’s New England Class A championship, Choate and Kingswood–came via 4-3 margins, as did three of their four regular-season losses, to Taft, Hotchkiss and Exeter. In fact, it was the same Exeter squad that came back to haunt the Big Green in postseason play as well, bouncing Deerfield in the first round of the New England Class A Championships by that very same 4-3 margin.
Probably the biggest reason Morsman watched his Big Green attain double figures in wins during each of the past three years was Roddy. This Deerfield dynamo, who has been the recipient of the last three James L. Ford Deerfield Tennis Trophies, which is presented to the player deemed the team’s MVP. A glance at his handiwork since coming on campus as a freshmen is a testament that the award has not been misguided and that this Bowdoin-bound standout is one of the best to ever hold court at Deerfield.
During Roddy’s four-year career, he rang up a record of 105-23. He was 56-12 in singles play and 49-11 in doubles competition. This past season, he produced a best ever 17-1 singles mark and, combined with Jackson Watson (15) was 10-4 in doubles. Over his past two years, meanwhile, Roddy went 32-3 in singles and was 24-7 in doubles.
“I’m just happy we were able to send coach Morsman out on a winning season,” said Roddy, whose mentor announced his decision to step down to his players following the New England championships. “All of us were really happy when we found out that he was coming back for at least another season … he’s an outstanding coach.”
As for a sparkling career that saw him play both number-one singles and doubles for the Big Green since his sophomore year, Roddy was quite happy with the way things had gone. “I feel very fortunate to have been able to have played a part of the rich tradition this soccer program has established throughout New England.”
Roddy and Watson weren’t the only contributors to the Big Green’s successful court appearances this spring, however, as everyone in the lineup posted winning records. With Roddy and Jackson situated at first and second singles respectively, Cole Horton (14), who was the recipient of this year’s Holton-Sayce Sportsmanship Award, was the number-three guy, as Luke Therrien (15) was the fourth seed. The fifth seed belonged to Darren Ho (16) while Scott Danforth (17) filled the sixth seed.
While Roddy and Watson made up the number-one doubles team, Horton and Therrien combined on the second unit. The third team, meanwhile, consisted of Ho and Danforth.