By Dan Harrison
---- — The St. John’s Prep tennis team is determined to make a long run in this spring’s postseason.
That being said, the Eagles aren’t overlooking the regular season as veteran head coach Mark Metropolis has once again scheduled the toughest competition in the state. St. John’s Prep will have regular season bouts with a number of schools with elite tennis programs including Concord-Carlisle, St. John’s Shrewsbury and Wellesley.
“We’re playing the heavy hitters,” explained Metropolis. “We play them during the (regular) season so if we play them again in the state tournament, at least we know what we’re up against. To be the best you have to play the best.”
St. John’s Prep was the second overall seed in the North Division 1 tournament last year and fell in the finals to top-seeded Lexington.
The entire team is ready for the tough regular season, but no one is more prepared than senior tri-captain Chris Toner, the Eagles’ first singles player. To show he’s ready for a big season, Toner went toe-to-toe with Phillip Exeter’s Kenny Tao, who is nationally ranked, during a preseason jamboree at the Manchester Athletic Club.
“Chris really put a lot of time into his tennis with lessons and going to a lot of USTA tournaments, where he’s playing and competing against nationally ranked players. You don’t do that by just showing up,” said Metropolis. “I would say he’s one of the top players in the state this year for high school tennis players.”
One half of the top doubles team in the state from last year will also be returning for St. John’s Prep as senior Ian Wright will join Toner and senior Jonathan Shaffer as the three captains.
Last season, Wright and partner Mark Corvi were the state doubles champs. With Corvi gone this spring, Wright will pair up with junior Alec McNiff, who played at second doubles last season. However if the duo doesn’t gel as planned, Metropolis could move someone else into the spot in favor of chemistry.
“Ian’s going to bring that experience we need at first doubles. There are a lot of real good first doubles teams out there; it’s just a matter of pairing him up with someone who will play well with him so they compliment each other,” said Metropolis.
Juniors Dan Cunningham and Nico Limacher will look to help the Eagles at singles; Cunningham started on the second doubles team last year while Limacher started at third singles.
“They’re both great kids who worked hard over the summer,” noted Metropolis. “They picked up their level of tennis.”