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    Wednesday, June 19, 2024

    Stonington boys capture first Class S state tennis title with easy 6-1 win over Nonnewaug

    Stonington players get ready to hoist the championship trophy after the Bears defeated Nonnewaug 6-1 on Thursday to win the Class S state boys’ tennis title at Wesleyan University in Middletown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Tucker Callahan, left, and Conrad Tobiassen come together between points during their victory at No. 1 doubles in the Class S boys’ tennis state championship match on Thursday at Wesleyan University in Middletown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Matt Turrisi pumps his fist after winning a point during his victory at No. 2 singles in the Class S state championship boys’ tennis match against Nonnewaug on Thursday at Wesleyan University in Middletown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington’s No. 1 singles player Brady O’Neil returns the ball during his straight set win in the Class S state championship boys’ tennis match against Nonnewaug on Thursday at Wesleyan University in Middletown. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Middletown — Stonington tennis coach John Adriano saw freshman Brady O’Neil play basketball over the winter and thought he looked “pretty athletic.”

    “’We’ll see,’” Adriano remembers thinking. “’Maybe he can squeeze in somewhere.’ Well, he squeezed in at the top and he’s had a very good year. ... I had never seen him play (tennis), only the first day of practice.”

    With a team configured differently than Adriano originally thought it would be, including a switch for previous No. 1 singles player Tucker Callahan to doubles to accommodate an injury, the seventh-seeded Bears turned their lineup into a state championship roster.

    Stonington defeated No. 4 Nonnewaug 6-1 Thursday at Wesleyan University to capture the Class S state championship, the Bears’ first state title in program history.

    It is only the fourth season of the CIAC’s current tournament format for boys’ tennis, with teams matching themselves head-to-head, such is the formula for the girls’ tennis state tournament. Stonington had runner-up finishes in 2011 and 2019, with players earning points for the team as individuals.

    “It’s been something I’ve been looking forward to winning ever since I started playing tennis in seventh grade,” said Stonington senior Jackson Conlon, the Bears’ No. 4 singles player. “We work hard but we don’t take it too seriously. We’re really close together as a team and I think our team chemistry is what makes us really good.

    “It’s going to be sad to see this team leave, to leave this team.”

    O’Neil won his No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-1 over Nonnewaug’s Jackson Brent. Matthew Turrisi, Chase Donnrummo and Conlon also won singles matches in straight sets for the Bears (19-1).

    Callahan and doubles partner Conrad Tobiassen, who combined to win the Eastern Connecticut Conference title last week, won at No. 1 doubles against Nonnewaug, remaining unbeaten. Owen Grant and Peter Schoenecker followed with a victory at No. 3 doubles.

    When Stonington came back from the pandemic in 2021 after a season away, there were no returning players.

    “I didn’t know anybody. I had to get the list out,” Adriano said. “I thought I was teaching on another team. We started from scratch and they built it up to where they are today.

    “They put the time in away from high school tennis. Just an overall good group but don’t underestimate the offseason work they put in.”

    Adriano called losing Callahan out of the No. 1 singles slot “a blow.”

    “I’m not going to sugar-coat it,” Adriano said. “My hope was that it was going to be a two- or three-week thing and then we’d put him right back in singles and he and O’Neil could battle it out for No. 1. The muscles in his back just didn’t allow it because of the serving. It really hasn’t affected his strokes as you can see, the killer forehand is still there.

    “He obviously excelled in the doubles. He and Tobiassen haven’t lost a match this year. They played very well together. They’re good, smart players.”

    The Bears will lose Tobiassen, Conlon, Grant, Josh Lord and Brett Caron to graduation.

    “We really wanted this. We worked hard to get this win,” Conlon said. “We got it done today. ... I think yesterday’s match (7-0 semifinal win over No. 15 East Catholic) was a tough match, too. We executed well. We swept them. We played our hearts out and we got the job done.”

    v.fulkerson@theday.com

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