BHS Boys’ Tennis Team Playing for State Title on Saturday

June 11, 2024
From left to right: Leo Natalizio, Charles Demeo, Spencer Goss, Jeremy Gu, Logan Cox, Dillon Denny-Brown, and Rylan Nichols. Photo by Mike Rosenberg

This has seemed like a certainty since the beginning of the spring sports season: two Dual County League boys’ tennis powerhouses, Bedford and Weston, facing off for the Division 3 state championship.

And here we are, with the match scheduled for Saturday at the duPont tennis complex of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge. The start time will be announced by the MIAA on Thursday.

“It should be fun. The kids are really excited,” said BHS Coach John Geilfuss, who last took a team to the finals in 2022 and has won two state championships. 

Dillon Denny-Brown won in first singles, 6-3, 6-4. Photo by Colin Valentine

(There is an asterisk – Weston must defeat Martha’s Vineyard tonight in the state semifinals. That is like the Celtics vs. the Washington Generals in a one-game playoff. Anything’s possible, of course, but seriously?)

Check the MIAA power rankings. Weston, the perennial Division 4 state champion, graduated to Division 3 this year and was still ranked first from wire-to-wire. On the Wildcats’ heels is Bedford. The rest of the field is way behind.

That’s because of the “opponent’s ranking” variable in the power rankings formula. Bedford and Weston play in the elite conference for the sport, so victories are mathematically magnified. The two teams met once in early May and Weston came out on top, winning all three singles matches. If Bedford had won that day, the rankings would have been reversed. But it doesn’t make any difference now.

“We’re much ‘match-tougher’ than we were then,” Geilfuss said. “Everybody is doing well.” 

Bedford boys chose a perfect time to play its most complete match of the year as a team on Monday, blanking talented third-seeded Swampscott, 5-0 on the neutral courts at Concord-Carlisle.

Charles Demeo and Leo Natalizio, playing second doubles, set the tone, winning their first set about a half-hour into the match, 6-1. They had to fight off a strong comeback, but won the last two games to close out the second set, 7-5. 

Both double teams, first doubles pairing of Spencer Goss and Logan Cox and second double pairing of Leo Natalizio and Charles Demeo (pictured left to right) won on Monday evening. Photo by Colin Valentine

Rylan Nichols, playing third singles, made it 2-0 Bedford. He got off to a hot start, taking the first set, 6-2 with his second set win a little closer, 6-3. 

The first doubles combination of Spencer Goss and Logan Cox clinched the trip to MIT for Bedford. They quickly won their first set, 6-2, then pulled away late to end the match, 6-4, giving the Bucs an insurmountable 3-0 lead.

Still, there was intense, competitive tennis going on. Dillon Denny-Brown was matched against Charles Schepens in first singles. Both had advanced to the third round of the state individual tournament. But this was Denny-Brown’s day. He won his first set, 6-3, and as they played on and Bedford clinched in the nearby court, he prevailed, 6-4.

The last to finish was Jeremy Gu, battling Schepens brother Sam. After taking a very close first set, 7-5, Gu dropped the next, 6-1, and then the two played on and on for team pride. Geilfuss said none of the players begin the third set. The practice is to finish the second set and not settle for a tie-breaker. Gu pulled out the epic match, 18-16. It took about three hours.

Geilfuss had an interesting theory explaining the Bucs’ high-energy level and determination.

“This team really is about a lot of extra effort, a lot of ‘nitty-gritty.’ Many of these kids play other sports, so they are very competitive in a team atmosphere. Tennis can be very individualistic, but in a team situation. Here it seems to have really melded into a team, which is hard to do.

Senior Jeremy Gu, playing second singles, didn’t have to win for the Bucs to move on, but “playing for pride” pulled out a 6-1, 18-16 victory in an epic three-hour match against Swampscott’s Sam Schepens. Photo by Colin Valentine

“The best tennis players almost always win, but even the best baseball teams only win 60 percent of the time,” he said. “So even if the opponent is better, they don’t care. They have a different competitive mindset. And that has worked to our advantage in a lot of matches.”

The players support each other verbally on and off the court during a match.

“Positive energy is a huge thing on a tennis court. Having somebody at your back cheering you on can always be a big help.”

The team is hoping fans can be part of that support system at the finals.

Doug Denny-Brown contributed to this report.

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