This weekend, for only the second time in tournament history, Deerfield traveled to the New England-Mid Atlantic Invitational tournament. For many years, the tournament had been hosted by either the McDonogh School in Maryland or Blair Academy in New Jersey, but this year’s version took place at Episcopal Academy in Pennsylvania. In honor of EA’s longtime coach, the late George C Shafer, it was an all-doubles affair, with 16 teams entered in four separate draws.
In the #1 draw, Carl Grant and Scott Danforth made quick work of their first two opponents, dispatching Springside Chestnut Hill and Lawrenceville by identical 6-1, 6-1 scores. Unfortunately, they ran into a buzzsaw in the top-seeded Haverford School team, dropping the semifinal 6-4, 6-2.
In the #2 draw, Matthew Wuyan and Gideon Yektai lost their opening match to a seeded team from Episcopal 6-3, 6-2 (despite being up an early break in both sets). However, they sliced through the consolation draw like a hot knife through butter, blanking opponents from Mercersburg and SCH before winning by default against Penn Charter and finishing off Lawrenceville 8-5.
In the #3 draw, the new team of Alfi Auersperg and Deepak Pathapati opened with a double bagel against Malvern Prep and lost only three games against a team from Penn Charter. Against Episcopal in the semifinal, they took some time to get on the same page, dropping the first set 6-2, before storming back to take a 4-0 lead in the second. Their opponents regrouped to get back on serve at 4-3, but Alfi and Deepak dug deep, eventually breaking at 5-4 to send the match to a deciding super-tiebreaker. Things got dicey at first, as they went down a quick 5-1, but our boys eventually tied the score at 7-7, and a huge serve from Alfi gave us two match points at 9-7. EA saved them both but double-faulted at 9-9, setting up a long match point that Alfi closed out with a volley. The fellas carried the momentum into match against Haverford in the finals, where they kept their capable opponents at arms’ length: 6-1, 6-1.
The new team of Arthur Yao and Cosmo Hunt (who had never taken the court together prior to Saturday) made quick work of their opponents from the Hill School (6-2, 6-3) and Mercersburg (6-1, 6-0), and followed it up with a 6-0, 6-4 win against East Prep on Sunday morning. Against Episcopal in the final, they went down a quick 1-4 before “getting it together” to take a 6-5, 40-0 lead on Arthur’s serve. They promptly lost the game, and played a close tiebreaker that broke our way when Arthur hit a pair of shank lobs at 6-6, the latter landing on the baseline to win the point. After taking the next point to claim the first set, it was unfortunately all EA from there, as our boys couldn’t consolidate a break at 2-1 and lost the set 6-3. Some back-of-the-envelope calculation among the coaches on the sideline determined that a Deerfield win would cause a three-way tie for first between us, Episcopal, and Haverford, whereas an Episcopal win would clinch the title outright. Coach Speer made the strategic decision to relay this information to his players, and a close tiebreak ensued, with Haverford’s team and alumni all cheering us on. Unfortunately, Cosmo and Arthur couldn’t bring it home, as EA took the super 10-6.
We finished third (out of 16 teams) with 20 points, behind Episcopal’s 24 and Haverford’s 22, and ahead of Delbarton’s 18, Lawrenceville’s 11, and the remaining teams scoring in the single digits. Thanks to the numerous people who made this trip possible: Bob Howe for giving the green light, Jess Lapachinski for booking our luxurious stay at the Berwyn Marriott Residence Inn, Amanda Ewing for providing an EZ Pass, Norm for the 24-hour turnaround on our uniforms, and Mrs. Danforth for her support, snacks, errands, and temporarily assuming assistant coaching duties. It was a team effort, and I’m proud of how we competed and came together as a group (the picture says it all – Carl glued to the far fence, the others camped out at a picnic table against the near fence, everyone much closer to the court than any other spectator). Our dual match season resumes this week with Westy on Wednesday, Groton on Thursday, and Choate on Saturday. As always, live updates will continue @deerfieldtennis.