MIDDLETOWN — Joel Barlow’s first and second doubles teams spent plenty of time testing their skills against each other in practice this spring, but Friday’s match certainly had a much different feel to it.
Top-seeded Alex Klein Wassink and Adam Ortiz of Joel Barlow met fourth-seeded teammates Jalen Johnson and Bobby Tremont in the doubles finals of the CIAC Class M tournament.
So teammates became opponents in this matchup, which was won by Klein Wassink and Ortiz, 6-3, 6-0 at Wesleyan University. The triumph concluded a tournament that saw Barlow win the team championship with a score of 25 points. Avon and Weston tied for second in the team standings (24).
“It feels great. This is the second year that we won it and I want to go for the three-peat next year,” said Klein Wassink, a junior.
The champions showed the chemistry of an experienced doubles team during the title match.
“The key points of the match was our mental game, staying mentally strong, after losing a couple of points,” Klein Wassink said.
Of course, seeing their teammates across the court in a different competition was an unfamiliar scenario.
“They’re my teammates, it’s really fun playing against them, but you’ve got to stay serious,” Klein Wassink said.
Added Ortiz, also a junior, “It’s a challenge to play your own teammates. You don’t want to start to joking around. You want to stay serious and have a good match and also a fun one.”
This spring marks their second season as a doubles squad.
“It’s great, I don’t know if I would be playing tennis if I didn’t have Alex as a partner,” Ortiz said. “It makes it fun for me.”
For Tremont, a junior, and Johnson, a freshman, their first season on the court as a duo has been highly successful.
“We’ve been playing together for about two months now,” Tremont said. “Going into the season, I wasn’t expecting to play with a freshman, so it was rocky at the start. But now we’ve got it sorted out. Last year I made it to the semifinals in doubles, so I wanted to pursue that. It felt awesome to play my teammates in the finals.”
In the championship match of the Class M singles bracket, senior Jonathon Trevethan, representing Berlin, captured the title for the second straight season, beating third-seeded Brennan Nick of Tolland in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
“Winning it feels a little better this year, because I had a lot of nerves going into this year — more than than last year,” Trevethan said. “Overall, it’s pretty amazing.”
Both sets were a battle, featuring long rallies and impressive baseline play.
“The first set was really close all the way,” Trevethan said. “I thought the big game for me was when I broke his serve. There were a lot of momentum swings in that first set and it could have gone either way. Winning that first set gave me a huge boost of confidence.”
CLASS S FINALS
Litchfield garnered the Class S team championship for the second year in a row, finishing with a team score of 19 points. Old Lyme was second (11). Sparking Litchfield’s victory was top-seeded senior Charlie Shanks, who won the singles championship by coming back to defeat second-seeded Drew Morris of St. Joseph 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Shanks lost in the Class S championship match in 2018.
“It’s a pleasure to compete in this tournament, which has so many great players, and I’m really happy I was able to make a comeback and win it after what happened last year,” he said.
Morris, a sophomore, converted a key break point on his way to taking the opening set.
“I just kept playing my game and tried to keep my head, which is what I think won it for me,” Shanks said. “Being able to win with all these guys (teammates) helped me.”
In the S doubles finals, fourth-seeded Graham Johnstone/Kyle Remmert of Stonington edged No. 2-seeded Chris Nuzzo/Garrett Johnson of Morgan, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“We have been working so hard all year for this,” Johnstone said. “Right before the year, Kyle and I were looking to be singles players. But we talked to our coaches and told them we had a vision that we could win a state title as a doubles team. We told them we could do it with some practice and we did it.”
Said Remmert: “In this match, we realized it would be our last match of the season playing together and we didn’t want to spend it being angry or disappointed. So we just kind of left it all out there and we ended up winning. Winning that first set was key.”