After last year’s heartbreak, Westborough boys tennis returns with improved game and outlook

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After last year’s heartbreak, Westborough boys tennis returns with improved game and outlook
Westborough sophomore Kaden Chen prepares to return the ball. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

WESTBOROUGH – The Westborough boys tennis team has been marked by “almosts” in the last three years.

In 2021, the team narrowly lost in the title match. Despite going a combined 24-9 over the next two seasons, each ended with a 3-2 loss in the MIAA Division 2 championship, including last year’s especially close setback against the top-seeded Duxbury Dragons in June. For three straight years, the team has been knocking on the door.

This year, Westborough is doing everything they can to open it.

“I feel pretty good about this squad. We’re deeper than we were last year – that’s a good problem to have. I saw a lot of improvement from the kids. Tyler Lattanzio improved, Jorge Garcia Gonzalez improved – they all came in understanding it would be a challenge this year. It’s not just those two. I’m happy,” said Head Coach Leonard O’Neil.

The deep team also has top-end talent. Kaden Chen, last season’s Midland-Wachusett Division A MVP, competes at the team’s first singles spot. As a freshman last year, Chen went 12-2, and 5-0 in the playoffs. Since that point, he’s gained a couple of inches in height and come back even better for his sophomore year.

“I feel I’ve grown mentally. I feel like I’m a lot more confident in myself. I’m not really doubting myself – I’m playing a lot more freely on the court,” Chen told the Community Advocate. “We’re trying to learn a lot from last year… We’re trying to drill a lot more. I think we can make it this year.”

“Usually a number one is a force that sets the tone. I think Kaden is capable of doing that,” said O’Neil.

After last year’s heartbreak, Westborough boys tennis returns with improved game and outlook
Westborough senior Srinjoy Ghosh goes to the backhand. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

The heart and soul of the Westborough team is Midland-Wachusett All-Star Srinjoy Ghosh, who was named the team’s senior captain before the season. Ghosh, the second singles player, said the team changed their practice routine this year, incorporating more sprints and on-the-court work.

“Our tone-setter is Srinjoy. He’s our captain this year. He’s the one that’s driving everybody during the workouts, during the conditioning… He makes everything run really well,” O’Neil said.

“This year is different because everybody has improved tremendously. Something about not getting over that finish line has just kept everyone hungry. I know this year our expectation is to take it more in steps instead of focusing on the last part,” Ghosh explained.

While the team is different this year, Ghosh said much remains the same: The team is still close-knit, and players still have championship aspirations. With a new mindset but similar team dynamics, the Westborough Rangers started their season strong against Wachusett Regional on April 5.

Westborough made quick work of the Mountaineers, turning in a dominant 5-0 team performance. The match was filled with bagels; Chen (6-0, 6-0), Ghosh (6-0, 6-0) and third-singles player Jordan Hlawek (6-0, 6-0) won each one of their games. The Rangers’ doubles teams also fared well; seniors Brendan Estaphan and Michael Ku (6-1, 6-0) and Gonzalez and Lattanzio (6-1, 6-0) completed Westborough’s opening-match sweep.

After last year’s heartbreak, Westborough boys tennis returns with improved game and outlook
Westborough sophomore Jordan Hlawek returns the ball. (Photo/Evan Walsh)

The team was happy to be back on the court.

“It feels great. I think everyone had a lot of fun today,” Ghosh said.

Although it remains to be seen whether this will be the year Westborough can “get over the hump,” O’Neil emphasized that should the team fall short once again, the season wouldn’t be counted as a failure. The season is about more than simply the championship, said O’Neil – it’s about helping develop the student-athletes as people.

“Would I like to win? Sure. Would I like them to win? Sure, because it would be a good experience. But ultimately what I want them to take from this is to be good, young, upstanding members of the community. That’s really my goal. And if we win we win,” O’Neil said.

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