Westborough – They are the one team that opposing Midland A coaches cringe at when it comes time to face them. Opponents step into competition knowing that putting a blemish on their undefeated record is the longest of longshots. The domination in their sport has become heralded throughout the commonwealth and for good reason.
They are the Westborough High School boys’ varsity tennis team that has recorded nearly off-the-charts success in recent years. In each of the past two seasons, the team has rattled off consecutive win streaks of 22 and 21 matches to capture Central Division 1 championships. In smooth-swinging junior Sumukh Pathi, the Rangers can boast of an individual state champion and the remainder of the team’s lineup is a powerhouse of players that looks to do even more damage in 2016.
Just one goal, which has been so tantalizingly close in the past two seasons, remains unmet. The team dropped heart-wrenching decisions to Barnstable (3-2) and Lexington (4-1) in 2015 and 2014, respectively, in Division 1 state finals. They were painful losses and the team hopes not to repeat the outcome this June.
“Losing in the state finals was a bad feeling and we really want to get back in that position and so we have extra, extra motivation to get back there and win this year,” Pathi said.
“I really feel like third time’s the charm for us and we should really do it,” said senior teammate and co-captain Richard Zhu, who is headed to Cornell University this fall. “For the seniors, it’s our last year. Other teams are getting stronger so we have to work harder also. We all really want to get back there and do it this year.”
“We’re really trying to win the state finals this year,” added fellow senior co-captain Alan Dubrovsky, who will be attending Hobart and William Smith Colleges following graduation. “Andover has some really good players. Two of them are top 40 in the country. But we’re working as hard as possible because for some of us, it’s our last year and we’re ready.”
Head coach Stephen Ferris’s lineup starts with first singles player Pathi, a junior co-captain, who captured the Division 3 state singles title a year ago with 6-4, 7-5 set wins that required a tenacious late-match comeback. Having such talent at the top sets the stage for second singles competitor Dubrovsky and third singles teammate sophomore Ayman Khan, who have recorded a bounty of key victories in high school competition and other tournaments as well.
Pairings for doubles unites Zhu with senior Tamas Palfi in the number one spot with junior Ben Hopkinson and sophomore Sajjad Shuaybi rounding out the Rangers’ starting lineup as second doubles.
Others who will see court time in 2016 include seniors Anand Kumar, Eric Nie, Nicholas Steudel; junior Zachary Weinstein; sophomore Drew Bebko; and freshmen Jason Chen, Matthew Crowley, Noah Jaeger Brueh and Alex Mack.
While there are four freshmen newly added to the roster this season, none of them appear to have first-year jitters or be intimidated by the team’s rigorous fitness training schedule, according to Pathi.
“We have four new kids on the team this year and they’re fitting in really well,” he said. “They all work really hard. They may not be starting right away but they’re learning our system and what we do so it’s going well.”
“The fitness we do is incredibly hard,” explained Zhu. “We have a hill called the ‘Ski Hill’ and it’s the toughest hill I’ve ever run before. Our coach runs with us and that adds to the challenge. We all try to make it to the top together. That brings us all closer together as well.”
“We have really good chemistry. We’re all friends,” echoed Dubrovsky. “We all talk in school. We all practice outside of the tennis season. Some of us play in tournaments together and all that helps when we practice and play matches.”
The team practices at the Westborough Tennis and Swim Club in preparation for scheduled matches at Westborough High School.