CLIFTON PARK — With all eyes on them in the closing set of the Section II Class AA boys’ tennis team tournament championship matchup, the Bethlehem No. 3 doubles pairing of Joey Mocerine and Connor Darcy proved they could handle the spotlight.
With the teams tied in the overall score, Mocerine and Darcy provided a 6-1 third-set win over Saratoga Springs at Shenendehowa High School to deliver a third straight Section II Class AA title for Bethlehem. While the 5-4 win continued a Bethlehem championship streak, the loss for Saratoga Springs snapped its 15-match winning streak the Blue Streaks brought into the team championship match.
With no spring season a year ago because of restrictions related to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Friday’s match represented the fifth consecutive team final Bethlehem had reached. In four of those championship matchups, Bethlehem’s opponent was Saratoga Springs.
“I truly cannot think of the last time we haven’t had a 5-4 battle with them in the regular season,” Bethlehem coach Steve Smith said. “What [Saratoga Springs] does up there forces us down here to reinvent and refocus every year.”
In late May, Saratoga Springs earned its 5-4 win against Bethlehem by dominating the singles matches, winning five out of six. On Friday, Bethlehem (15-1) turned the tables, as No. 4 Hayden Brown upset previously unbeaten sophomore Vinny DeVito to start the Eagles’ rally.
“He beat me 6-0, 6-2 last time we played,” Brown said. “[This time]. I was waiting for him to hit short balls for me and then I would come in and I would hit the ball. A lot of them were really nice shots, so I could finish the point.”
One winning streak that remained intact was Saratoga Springs senior Nick Grosso’s 16-match unbeaten streak. He defeated Ashrith Rao 6-3, 7-5.
“I couldn’t do it without the guys behind me cheering me on throughout the way,” Grosso said. “I’ve had a couple big wins, and this was a great way for me to end the season.”
Grosso was rooting for DeVito to keep his undefeated record intact, too.
“The kid he played against played an incredible match, I thought Vince played [well],” Grosso said. “If he plays like himself, he’s going to have an incredible career with Saratoga tennis.”
Saratoga Springs’ No. 2 Andrew Blaha and No. 3 Jackson Katusha won in two sets before No. 6 Ian Hill needed three sets to win. Bethlehem’s Aidan Haas won his No. 5 singles in two sets, giving Bethlehem a chance on the doubles courts for three more points and the title.
“We knew we would have to get a win somewhere,” Smith said about Bethlehem’s rematch with Saratoga Springs. “We started some more challenge matches [in practice] and had one of our doubles players, Tao [Xie], moved up to No. 6 [singles] and that allowed us to realign our doubles a little bit more.”
Singles: Grosso (S) def. Rao, 6-3, 7-5; Blaha (S) def. W. Bievenue, 6-1, 6-4; Katusha (S) def. Hardiman, 6-1, 6-1; Brown (B) def. DeVito, 6-4, 7-6; Haas (B) def. Chartrand, 6-1, 6-3; Hill (S) def. Xie, 6-4, 2-6, 6-1. Doubles: Burman/Torlasco (B) def. Clancy/Rosas, 6-1, 6-1; Dennin/X. Bievenue (B) def. Kim/Webber, 4-6, 7-5, 6-4; Mocerine/Darcy (B) def. Krackeler/Ladd, 7-6, 4-6, 6-1.