By Douglas Maxwell Myer, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Stephen Ferris was brought on as the head coach of Westborough High School’s (WHS) tennis team in the fall of 2012 after the program had undergone a predominantly mediocre season. Up to that point the organization’s previous coach had taken on a new coaching job for a local college awhile a strong group of seniors had graduated. With the beginning of a new year ahead, Ferris hoped to help get the team back on track.
That year Ferris’s ambition would be seen through as a group of four young freshmen – Nathan Lookwhy, Anuraag Gopaluni, Bryan Zheng, and Jimmy Jedras – arrived at WHS. Under the leadership of Ferris, the four, as well as their teammates, received extensive training that helped to lead them in a new direction.
“Right away he instilled in us a sense of discipline and understanding the importance of fitness,” said Gopaluni. “We ran hills, did workouts in the gym, and I think that was really important in establishing a strong base that allowed us to then focus on tennis.”
With each practice the athlete’s tennis abilities would elevate and Ferris would later choose Nathan, Anuragg, and Bryan to be the starters for the team during their freshmen year.
During their first season the three freshmen starters won 13 matches and lost three in the regular season, an impressive achievement considering most of their competition was upper classmen. While most coaches and teams would be satisfied with that kind of record, the team stepped up their game and strived to reach even farther. Ferris would have his players practice year round even during the off season feeding off of each other’s competitive nature which inspired all of them to work harder in their personal fitness and to improve their own tennis skills.
“This is a deep team all the years I have been on it, skill-wise, as well as friend-wise,” said Lookwhy. “Everyone is supportive which makes it actually fun to be on the team.”
For their sophomore year they improved with a 14-2 regular season record. As the team kept up their hard working momentum into their junior year, Lookwhy, Gopaluni, Zheng, and Jedras had an undefeated regular season of 17-0. The team made it to the state Division 1 finals but lost to Lexington.
This past spring season as seniors the four had an 18-0 undefeated regular season run and made a successful run through the playoffs until ultimately narrowly falling 3-2 to Barnstable in finals.
“I’m proud to have been associated with the Westborough tennis team and humbled that I got to play with some of the best players in the state,” said Zheng. “The guys and Coach Ferris were great models of sportsmanship.”
Even though the team never won the state championship during their four year run, Ferris is proud of the legacy the four players left at the school and the help they provided in developing the team’s younger players.
“Overall this class went 62-5 in the regular season for their careers and 11-4 in the playoffs,” he said. “They formed the nucleus of one of the most successful runs in any sports teams at Westborough High.”
This fall Zheng is attending Cornell University, Lookwhy is at Gordon College (where he will continue to play tennis), Gopaluni is at Boston University, and Jedras is enrolled in the UMASS Honors College.