By Jean DePlacido
---- — NEWTON — There was very little St. John’s Prep and B.C. High didn’t already know about each other, having split two matches during the regular season. The two Catholic Conference rivals met in the state semifinals at Newton South and although every match was close B.C. High was a 3-0 winner in a match that ended early when rain made the courts too wet to safely continue.
“We made the moves we had to make, but they got a few breaks,” said Prep coach Mark Metropolis, who has won the conference 23 of the 24 years he has been at the helm.
St. John’s beat B.C. High the first time they met back in April, but later that same month found themselves on the losing end, 4-1. Before the rubber match Metropolis made some changes, moving his third singles player Niko Limacher to first doubles with Ian Wright. He put Wright’s usual partner Sean Noak in the third singles slot.
The Eagles also had to change the second doubles team because captain Jonathan Shaffer twisted his ankle last weekend and was in a boot. Chase Davis took his place to play with Alec McNiff.
“When we beat them we won third singles and both doubles, but in the second meeting our only win came in second singles,” said Metropolis. “It’s like a chess match; we had to do something different to mix it up. Their coach moved his third singles to first doubles when they beat us.
“They are a young team, but they have some very good players. We had never lost to B.C. in all the time I’ve been coaching until this year.”
It has been a remarkable season for the Eagles from Dorchester. B.C. High, the South’s No. 4 seed, beat Newton South, 4-1, before taking on North champ St. John’s, which blanked Westford Academy 5-0. It is the first time B.C. High has ever gone to the state championship (today at Clark University against St. John’s of Shrewsbury).
“St. John’s is always a powerful team,” said crimson Eagles coach Lance Hutchinson. “This year we have some new kids and that has made all the difference. I thought this would be very close and a couple matches could have gone either way.
“I felt first doubles would be the crucial one, and when we were able to win that one I knew it was going to be a good day.”
That first doubles team of Charles Morris and Caye Tittmann won, 6-4, 6-4. Chris Toner had a tough first singles match, losing to unbeaten sophomore Charles Shewalter, 6-2, 6-2. Shewalter is ranked 70th in the country and No. 2 in New England in 16U.
“We train together at Manchester Essex Tennis Club, and have for the past six or seven years,” said Toner, who will play at UConn next year. “He got the better of me today.
“ We knew what they were going to do and tried to counter by changing things up. There were some close matches. We didn’t expect to be as good as we were this year. I think we overachieved and accomplished more than we expected.”
Shaffer said he hated not being on the court, but had hoped he’d be ready if his team advanced.
“I was hoping to be back,” he said. “Despite the loss we had a great year and exceeded our coach’s and our own expectations. We all worked very hard.”
Sam Lahart beat Noak, 6-4, 6-2, in third singles as rain began to fall. Both second singles and second doubles were in tie breakers after splitting sets when play was halted. Prep’s Dan Cunningham had taken an early lead, but Jeremy Mendoza fought back. McNiff and Davis were locked in another battle with Justin McGaffigan and Bailey Ward when the tournament officials ruled the courts too wet to continue.
“It’s been an interesting year,” said Metropolis. “This wasn’t our day, but it’s interesting to note that three of the teams in the state semifinals are Xaverian Schools – us, B.C. and St. John’s Shrewsbury. That doesn’t usually happen.”