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    Sunday, June 16, 2024

    O’Neil outlasts Callahan in an all-Stonington ECC singles title match

    Stonington’s Brady O’Neil makes a return to Stonington’s Tucker Callahan during the ECC boys' tennis tournament singles final Wednesday at Stonington High School. O’Neil, a sophomore, outlasted his teammate for the three-set victory, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-1. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Tucker Callahan returns a ball against teammate Brady O’Neil during the ECC boys' tennis tournament singles tennis final Wednesday. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington’s Chase Donnarummo and Sam Lund shake hands after scoring against Fitch’s Morgan Fisher and Nick Sousa during the ECC doubles final Wednesday. Donnarummo and Lund, the top seed, won the match 6-2, 7-6 (4). (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Fitch’s Morgan Fisher, left, and Nick Sousa were the ECC doubles runners-up Wednesday. (Dana Jensen/The Day)
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    Stonington — Stonington teammates and good friends Brady O’Neil and Tucker Callahan engaged in a tennis staredown in a nearly three-hours-long Eastern Connecticut Conference singles championship match.

    They traded shot after shot during their many marathon exchanges until someone finally blinked to decide the point.

    O’Neil kept his focus for longer periods, outlasting Callahan 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to win his first ECC singles title.

    Last year’s ECC final experience as a freshman — a two-set loss to Fitch’s Will Albrikes — helped prepare O’Neil for Wednesday’s match.

    “It’s great,” O’Neil said of winning the title. “People told me last year that maybe you’ll get it next year and I kept that mindset. I came back and won it. It’s definitely an advantage playing in a final last year because I knew how to come into it this year. I didn’t really realize it was a final until I was down 3-0 in the first set, so this time I came in mentally prepared.”

    O’Neil, the No. 2 seed, gradually wore down Callahan and pulled away in the third set. His baseline winner closed out the victory.

    He tried to contain his emotions during the match out of respect for Callahan, a senior.

    After the exhausting battle, O’Neil spoke about what it meant to play his top-seeded teammate, calling it a weird and amazing experience.

    “He’s a great friend,” O’Neil said. “I wouldn’t want to share the court with anybody else. … Playing with him is an honor.”

    O’Neil and Callahan know each other’s game so well.

    They regularly practice together. Then also played against each other to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots on the team, with Callahan holding the upper hand.

    “Tucker won pretty decisively, quite frankly,” Stonington coach John Adriano said. “Brady may have been waiting for his opportunity and he made the most of it. They played a long, slow-paced backboard type of match. They waited each other out.”

    On Wednesday, Callahan seized an early 3-1 lead in the first set before O’Neil seized the momentum and won five straight games.

    In the second set, Callahan broke a 4-4 tie to claim a 6-4 win to extend the match.

    But it was all O’Neil in the third set.

    “I got more aggressive in the third set,” O’Neil said. “When I get nervous, the first thing that goes is my forehand. It gets real tight and I start missing left and right. In the third set, I just tried to stay loose.”

    Callahan, who was on the winning ECC doubles team last year, gave credit to O’Neil.

    “He was playing really well,” Callahan said. “He was really consistent and made all the shots and really restricted me. Usually, my play style is aggressive and that’s how I’m able to get him in practice. Today, my shot wasn’t falling and Brady was really working hard. Truthfully, he just deserved that more than me.

    “Maybe if I tried a little bit harder, it would have been a different outcome.”

    Adriano enjoyed watching his two players compete in the final.

    “It was great, simply put,” Adriano said. “The last eight years, we’ve had a player in the singles finals. Unfortunately, we’ve not been able to break through. It seemed like we were the bridesmaid and never the bride.

    “So it was very satisfying Tuesday when both of these guys broke through the semis. They deserved their seeds as one and two.”

    It was a great day for Stonington overall, as its top-seeded doubles duo of Sam Lund and Chase Donnarummo beat Fitch’s Morgan Fisher and Nick Sousa, the No. 2 seed, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).

    “It was definitely an exciting match,” Donnarummo said. “We battled some adversity. We lost a little bit of focus in the middle of the match. Sam was right there to pick me up. We got the outcome that we wanted.”

    It is the Stonington pair’s first ECC doubles title.

    The two juniors remained unbeaten this season.

    “We complement each other’s games so well,” Lund said. “He has an amazing game at the net. … We help each other when we’re not doing great. That’s what helps us win so many matches.”

    g.keefe@theday.com

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