DANVERS — If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. That's the mentality for the St. John's Prep tennis team as they turn the corner down this spring's regular season stretch.
The Eagles, a talented program on the courts year in and year out, tend to stack the schedule full of challenging matches heading into the tournament to better prepare them for the equally stiff competition ahead. Tuesday afternoon on Senior Day, that reality was on full display as SJP hosted a stacked Concord-Carlisle team.
The Eagles ultimately fell to their out of conference foes, 4-1, in what was an ultra competitive afternoon of high level tennis that could've swung either way.
"We definitely elevated our level of play for this match," said Prep head coach Mark Metropolis, his team now 13-3 with three regular season matches remaining.
"The kids played really hard; we came out and knew we were going to be in a real tough match and it was great to see that we were that close against a top team in the state. We've definitely progressed from the beginning of the year to right now."
Starting at the top of the lineup, first singles player Jake Silacci grabbed the lone Eagles' point with a convincing 7-5, 6-1 straight set triumph. Going up against a worthy opponent, Silacci displayed a myriad of impressive shots ranging from top spin winners to well placed lobs and drop shots.
"Jake's really coming along nice now. He's played a lot of the top kids in the state and he'll continue to play some more good kids, so he's getting on top of his game," said Metropolis. "He's an all around player who can mix it up. He's a real smart player and he knows the game really well (because) he's been playing it his life. That showed today."
In the No. 2 slot, Jack Malolepszy battled all afternoon but was overpowered by Ben Heinsich, dropping a 6-0, 6-3 decision. Malolepszy got within a game in the second set but was never able to get over the hump. Meanwhile at No. 3 singles, freshman Hunter Wolters let leads in the first and second sets slip away before falling 7-6, 7-5 to another freshman, Alex Li. Both players battled through a series of long rallies but Wolters was eventually outlasted despite holding a 5-2 advantage in set two.
"He had the lead and he kind of sat back and relaxed a little too much with the lead both times," said Metropolis. "But he understands that now; he just has to be a little more aggressive and not let up when he's up."
Across the way in doubles action, both Eagles' duos of Carleton Riester/Brendan Ziegler and Andrew Rose/Jack Kiley fought hard until the very end despite coming up just short. Riester and Ziegler in particular had a great chance to pull out the win, splitting the first two sets (1-6, 7-6) before falling in a super tiebreaker, 10-8, when the team match was already decided. In second dubs Rose and Kiley dropped a 6-2, 6-4 decision that featured some great net play and powerful service games.
As far as high school tennis goes, it doesn't get much better than what fans saw Tuesday in Danvers. The Eagles still have to play perennial powerhouse programs Newton North, Lexington and Wellesley before awaiting their Division 1 North tourney draw, and it's matches like those that will gear them up in the best way.