WILMINGTON — Fans of the Wilmington High Boys Tennis team certainly knew this day was coming, they just probably thought it was a year or two away. With a talented, but extremely young roster, the Wildcats certainly seemed destined to qualify for the state tournament in the not too distant future.
As it turned out however on Tuesday afternoon, the Wildcats learned that the future is now, as an exciting 3-2 win over Stoneham on Senior Day at Wilmington High clinched a spot in the Division 3 North Sectional Tournament.
The Wildcats, with an overall record of 5-10, qualified for the tournament via the Sullivan Rule, finishing with a .500 record or better against Division 2 tournament teams.
It is believed to be the fifth time in the boys’ program history (1987, 1995, 2002 and 2015) that the Wildcats have qualified for the state tournament. Wilmington coach Rob Mailey, who led the Wildcats to their 2015 post season berth, says his team worked hard to earn this most deserving trip to the tournament.
“As we all know, this is a very young team. We only have one senior and no juniors,” Mailey said. “But the kids are very mature for their age. They work hard in practice and they work hard in their matches. They listen to the coaches instructions and they deserve all of the success they have had.”
All three of the Wildcats victories on Monday came in their singles matches and they all came in straight sets. As has been the case for much of the season, the Wildcats were led by number one singles player, freshman Anay Gandhi who rolled to a 6-2, 6-1 victory.
In second singles, senior captain Chris Spinazola, who was honored prior to the match as part of Senior Day powered his way to a 6-1, 6-1 victory, while in third singles seventh grader Anuj Gandhi dominated his opponent with a 6-0, 6-1 victory.
“That third singles match might have been our best match of the day,” Mailey said. “Anuj played a very smart match. It was a very windy day, and he played the wind very well. All of our singles players were dominant today. They knew we needed them and they stepped up for us.”
The doubles matches did not go quite as well for the Wildcats, as they dropped both matches, but Mailey felt like they played pretty well despite the losses. In first doubles , the duo of sophomores Colby Scaplen and Jared Benoit dropped a 6-1, 6-1 decision to a pair of Middlesex League All-Stars from Stoneham, while the second doubles combination of freshman Alexander Pacquet and seventh grader Siddharth Karani lost by a score of 6-0, 6-4.
“Our first singles played well against a tough opponent,” Mailey said. “In second doubles, they started off kind of nervous, but they played much better as the match went along. I thought they might stretch it to a third set, but they couldn’t quite do it.”
Prior to the match, Spinazola was honored for his time with the Wildcats tennis program.
“All of the kids on the team love him,” Mailey said. “They all look up to him. He is a quiet leader. He leads by example. He is the only senior, but he has befriended all of the kids. He sets a tremendous example of sportsmanship and of how to conduct yourself on and off the court.”
The Wildcats will wrap up their regular season this week with a road match against Arlington on Wednesday, followed by home matches against Watertown on Thursday and Melrose on Friday. The Melrose match will be the resumption last week’s match which was halted at the midway point due to rain.
“Even though we have clinched a tournament spot, I want the kids to keep working hard,” Mailey said. “I want to see them keep scrapping for every point, just like they have all season long.”