Bravehearts Turn it Around for Victory after Slow Start

Despite a slow start, the Bravehearts took down the Westfield Starfires 7-4 on Friday night June 28.  They were led Angelo Baez’s 5-inning, 10 strikeout start and Riley Livingston’s 4 for 4 night.

Though it was hot, it was a good night for baseball, and the stadium was packed.  The Bravehearts were wearing special jerseys for Ghostbusters Night.   A couple of those jerseys were auctioned off during the game.  Bernie Carbo, an ex-Red Sox player on the 1975 American League champions, was in attendance.  I got the chance to interview him:

After the game there were fireworks for the nearly sold out stadium.  A good show to get everyone excited for the upcoming holiday.

Before the game, I caught up with leadoff hitter Mariano Ricciardi and assistant coach Adam Chase:

Krish Vyas, the team’s honorary captain, was in attendance.  He went on the field and in the clubhouse before the game, and spent the game with me and other Bravehearts media members in the press box.  Check out my interview with Krish about what he does for the team and how his role with Bravehearts all got started:

The Bravehearts started off slow.  They did load the bases twice during the first 3 innings, but they weren’t able to score a run in these innings.  The Starfires ended up striking first in the top of the 4th.  Star outfielder Thomas Joyce led off the inning with a single, and he advanced on a long single into the left field corner by Danny Crossen.  C Tommy Quinn hit a deep double that scored both runners to make it 2-0 Westfield.

But Worcester’s bats had been heating up, and it showed as the game progressed.  In the bottom of the 4th, Riley Livingston (who had already singled once), hit a solo shot into left center, making it a 1 run game.  The Bravehearts continued to rally their way back in the bottom of the 5th.  John Thrasher hit what looked to be a single into center field but he was able to stretch it to a double.  That allowed him to score on Mack Cheli’s RBI single and tie the game.  Tyler Becker followed with a deep shot into center for a double, putting both him and Cheli in scoring position.  Paul Coumoulos’ single drove them both in.  It was now 4-2 Bravehearts, and there was only one out.  The Bravehearts loaded the bases again with two outs thanks to another hit by Livingston and a walk by Nick Martin, but their bases loaded struggles continued as Ricciardi struck out to end the inning.

With Angelo Baez out of the game in the 6th, Thomas Joyce hit a moonshot, all the way to the Papa Gino’s sign in right.  But the Bravehearts still held the lead after this, and extended it when 3B Ben McNeill hit a 2-run dinger of his own into deep center.  But this wasn’t it for home runs.  Devin Kellogg hit one for Westfield in the 8th to make it 6-4 Worcester.

The Bravehearts extended their lead in the bottom of the inning with a pair of singles followed by an RBI ground out.  Bryce Hellgeth earned another save to seal the victory in the 9th.

I caught up with Ben McNeill, one of the game’s best hitters, after the game:

Riding a 3 game win streak, the Bravehearts are now above .500 with a record of 13-12.  This week, they travel to the North Shore on Monday and Nashua on Wednesday for a twin bill.  Will their win streak continue?

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2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions: Who Becomes Title Favorite?

Free agency is just one day away, and this year brings us one of the most impactful free agency seasons in NBA history. Without the decisions of stars on the open market, it’s hard to tell who will win it all.

But generally, whoever dominates free agency and signs some of these elite players will have the opportunity to become a title contender. Which teams will dominate? Keep reading to find out what I think.

Graphics Key

  • Star = All Star Rights (A player I feel will be able to decide where they go)
  • (R) = Restricted Free Agent
  • (PO) = Player Option
  • (TO) = Team Option
  • No Parentheses = Unrestricted Free Agent

PG

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At this point, we should all just assume Kyrie Irving is leaving Boston. He has publicly noted that he doesn’t like it here, and plenty of teams would want a star like Kyrie, so it’s ultimately going to be Irving’s choice as to where he goes. I think it’s down to Brooklyn and the Lakers, but I cannot see Irving teaming up with LeBron James again.

With Irving leaving, the Celtics are frontrunners to sign Kemba Walker. This is a move I have been a fan of for a while now, and I see no problems with it. D’Angelo Russell has also been rumored to sign with Boston as well as the Lakers, but I think he’ll go to Indiana instead. The Lakers are prioritizing DLo’s return, but I just cannot see it happening after how he left the first time. Instead, LA will fill their need for a point guard with the duo of Eric Bledsoe and Elfrid Payton.  Meanwhile, I think veteran Ricky Rubio will be added in Denver for backcourt depth.

SG

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I don’t see too much movement happening in the shooting guard market. There’s no reason for Danny Green to leave Toronto and no reason for Lance Stephenson to leave LA. I think Butler will stay in Philly. Although he may be a shooting guard if he signs elsewhere, he fit well as a small forward in Philly last year, so I expect the same this year. With that being said, I see J.J. Redick returning to Philly as well to play shooting guard.

Klay Thompson is expected to stick with the Warriors, I could see him leaving for a rising team like Brooklyn if Kevin Durant leaves. Once he returns from his injury, Thompson and Kyrie Irving will make for another great backcourt duo. I have Matthews starting across from Rubio in Denver as he leaves Indiana to make room for Victor Oladipo.

SF

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly bought a house in Toronto, and after the amazing run last season, I think the Raptors, Leonard included, will stick together for this season. However, Leonard beat Kevin Durant and the Golden State Warriors, so I think Durant will move on from Golden State, recovering from his achilles tear and putting together a playoff run with a new team. Brooklyn makes sense for him, but I don’t see them signing more than two max players, and the Nets won’t need a small forward if they re-sign DeMarre Carroll.

I think Durant will shock everyone when by signing in Portland. It is a perfect fit though. They need front court help, and with the backcourt duo of Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum already doing great things, the Blazers could be one front court star away from a title.

The Pistons have a similar need for a small forward. Chandler is no superstar, but he can make a difference for Detroit. The Clippers are also in on star small forwards like Kawhi and KD, but I think they’ll probably have to settle for someone like Harrison Barnes. The Kings should be alright without Barnes or Bojan Bogdanovic, so I have Bogdanovic returning to Indiana to team up with Russell and Oladipo rather than joining his brother Bogdan in Sacramento.

PF

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There aren’t many star power forwards on the open market. But there are a handful of capable players available. Millsap is far from a superstar, but with Michael Porter Jr. returning from injury, it’s time for Denver to move on, and he could be a good asset in Philly. Porzingis is a solid PF, so I think he will receive interest from other teams as a restricted free agent, and I don’t see the Knicks being ready to move on for good. Mirotic, another strong European player will also head to New York to join Kyrie Irving and others in Brooklyn.

Al Horford has been rumored to sign with the Mavericks or Clippers, where he would play PF. But I can’t see either team overpaying Horford. I feel Horford will eventually settle for less money to contend for a title with the Celtics. The Clippers will move on and instead sign Julius Randle, a different kind of player who can play a mix of SF and PF.  As for Markieff Morris, he has regressed, but he’s still a capable player who can share time with John Collins at PF for the Hawks.

C

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Cousins is not the same after his injury, but I still see him resigning with the Warriors and contributing even if KD and Klay Thompson leave. I have Noel and Brook Lopez returning to their 2018 teams as well, Noel on a player option and Brook as a UFA. Meanwhile, DeAndre Jordan will join Thompson, Irving, and company in Brooklyn. Robin Lopez will also head back to New York in a return to the Knicks. As Horford stays with Boston, I have the Clippers turning to Nikola Vucevic to complete their starting lineup.

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That’s all for my 2019 NBA Free Agency Predictions. As you may have noticed, the graphics I used for my predictions have a currently blank column labeled “2019 Real Team”. I will be updating that column daily on Instagram (@bostonsportsmania) and Twitter (@AndrewRoberts1). In addition, I’ll be posting more NBA content as we get closer to the regular season, so stay tuned.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC North Edition

Welcome to Part 6 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Last week, I reviewed the home division of my New England Patriots, the AFC East.  Though the Pats should win the division, the Jets outdid them in the draft.  But in my eyes, an AFC North team was the overall draft winner.  Which team is it?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

cleveland-browns-brown Cleveland Browns

Overall Grade: A

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

I feel the Browns won this year’s draft. Not only did they snag two major steals at positions of need in Greedy Williams and Mack Wilson, they also filled most of the rest of their biggest needs. In addition to Williams, a CB and Wilson, an ILB, the Browns drafted a tackle, a safety, an outside linebacker. Some of their other picks were slight reaches, but they filled most of their needs, so I really like this draft class.

Baltimore_Ravens_Logo Baltimore Ravens

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Ravens started off this draft historically strong. They grabbed their two WRs of the future (hopefully Lamar Jackson is able to throw to them). They also drafted a much needed edge rusher in Jaylon Ferguson, who happens to be a great fit. The later rounds didn’t go as well. They did make some decent picks later on. I understand the selections of RB Justice Hill and DT Daylon Mack. But the Ravens didn’t need another guard or corner, and the Ravens been fine with Robert Griffin III as Jackson’s sole backup. Overall, this is a pretty good draft class, but it was a bit top heavy, and they didn’t prioritize their biggest needs in the later rounds.

cincinnati-bengals Cincinnati Bengals

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

The Bengals made a couple great selections. They found their potential QB-LT duo of the future. The Bengals also filled all of their biggest needs. But they reached on a lot of their picks. I’m not going to make a big deal about their choice to put aside smaller needs in favor of prospects they liked. But Drew Sample, for example could’ve been found in the 4th or 5th. He isn’t 2nd round material. I do give them credit for the promptness on filling their needs though, so I didn’t mind this draft class too much.

pittsburgh-steelers Pittsburgh Steelers

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

My favorite pick by far from this draft class was the selection of RB Benny Snell Jr.  Snell can be the primary backup for James Conner with Le’Veon Bell leaving for good. But other than that, the Steelers didn’t have an amazing draft. They didn’t fill too many needs, and the needs they did fill were filled by reaching. I didn’t mind the Devin Bush pick, as he may not be a good fit, but he can play inside linebacker as they need. Plus, Isaiah Buggs was a steal even though Pittsburgh doesn’t need a DT.  But the fact that they didn’t draft a tackle to replace Marcus Gilbert will significantly bog them down.

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my AFC South Draft Grades next.  As a whole, the AFC South did not have a great draft.  But two teams tied for the worst overall grade.  Who were they?  Find out soon.

Basketball Bits #1: What do the Celtics need to win it all?

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This year’s NBA off-season will be pivotal for many teams across the league. Going into free agency, I see no clear favorite to win the NBA Finals. Even the Warriors could fall out of contention if Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, and DeMarcus Cousins all leave as free agents. A handful of big names will be on the open market, and whoever dominates in free agency should have a good chance to win it all. Even teams who struggled mightily in 2018-19 like the Knicks and Lakers have the chance to jump into title contention with the help of a strong off-season.

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The Celtics are in an interesting situation. Last season, they were expected to be serious title contenders with the return of Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward from injury alongside the rise of Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and others. But Kyrie Irving did not mesh well with the team, and he grew to dislike Boston. The expectation going into the season was that Kyrie Irving would return to the Celtics on a long term deal or at least 1 more year on his player option before agreeing to a long term deal. But now, Irving is expected to leave for Brooklyn, LA, or somewhere else.

With Irving expected to leave, what do the Celtics need in order to stay relevant and a potential championship contender? Do they need a star who will be a better leader than Kyrie was? Do they need multiple stars? Will they just roll with the young core of Tatum and Brown? Do they have enough cap space to do what they need to do? I researched every NBA champion in history and looked at how many star players they had, using 20 PPG as criteria for stardom. I also included the number of 25 PPG and 30 PPG scorers, as these players are less common. Check out my research as well as some Basketball Bits.

The Research

Basketball Bits #1_ Stars on Championship Teams – Sheet1

The “Basketball Bits”

  • The NBA has 73 champions all-time
    • Just 14 of 73 (19.2%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
      • 35 of 73 (47.95%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
      • 22 of 73 (30.1%) had 2 20 PPG scorers
      • Just 2 of 73 (2.7%) had 3 20 PPG scorers:
        • The 2017-18 Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry, Thompson, Durant)
        • The 2016-17 Golden State Warriors (Curry, Thompson, Durant)
    • 47 of 73 (64.4%) lacked a 25 PPG scorer
      • 20 of 73 (27.4%) had 1 25 PPG scorer
      • 6 of 73 (8.2%) had 2 25 PPG scorers
    • 67 of 73 (91.8%) lacked a 30 PPG scorer – nobody had more than 1
  • The Boston Celtics have won 17 championships:
    • None of them had a 30 PPG scorer
    • Only 2 of 17 (11.8%) had a 25 PPG scorer
    • 5 of 17 (29.4%) lacked a 20 PPG scorer
    • 8 of 17 (47.1%) had 1 20 PPG scorer
    • 4 of 17 (23.5%) had 2 20 PPG scorers 
  • In the last 25 years:
    • Only 3 teams (12%) have won it all without a 20 PPG scorer:
      • The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs (Most recent)
      • The 2007-08 Boston Celtics
      • The 2003-04 Detroit Pistons
    • Only 10 teams (40%) have won it all without 25 PPG scorer
  • In the NBA’s first 25 years:
    • 6 teams (24%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 21 teams (84%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • Between 1972 and 1994 (everything else):
    • 5 teams (21.7%) won it all without a 20 PPG scorer
    • 16 teams (69.6%) won it all without a 25 PPG scorer
  • There are only 3 franchises who have ever won a championship with a 30 PPG scorer:
    • The Chicago Bulls (4 times, Michael Jordan)
    • The Milwaukee Bucks (1 time, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar)
    • The Golden State Warriors (1 time, Rick Barry)

The Verdict

In this era, the Celtics will need at least one consistent 20-25 PPG scorer to win a title, and a second would be helpful. You never know, maybe Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown can be our guys. But I think pairing Tatum and Brown with a star point guard or star center would be ideal. The Celtics did win with a handful of 15-20 PPG scorers in 2008. That was in the Paul Pierce/Kevin Garnett/Ray Allen era. I doubt they can put something like that together again in today’s NBA with all these stars on the open market.

But if they sign one star player that can allow Tatum and Brown to thrive while that player still puts up 25 PPG, such as PG Kemba Walker, PG D’Angelo Russell, or C Nikola Vucevic, this team could have the chance to contend. They aren’t going to pull the trigger if it puts their future at risk. I don’t think that will happen. But do they have enough money? Do these stars want to sign in Boston unlike Kyrie Irving? I can’t wait to find out, and I’ll be releasing my predictions soon.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: AFC East Edition

Welcome to Part 5 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be kicking off my AFC draft reviews with the AFC East. The New England Patriots (my team) have dominated this division for years. But did they dominate the draft? What other AFC East teams thrived? Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

 

Jets-Logo New York Jets

Overall Grade: B+

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Jets may have reached for a couple players and they did struggle to fill all of their needs with six picks. But for the amount of picks they had, this was a pretty solid daft. I would’ve rather the Jets take Josh Allen over Quinnen Williams, as Allen is the better fit even though Williams is the better player.  They did make up for it later though, as they drafted Jachai Polite and Blake Cashman. I also really liked the selection of Chuma Edoga, an underrated player at a position of need for the Jets. The Jets opted to wait on a tight end and a corner, and when they finally drafted them, it was a reach. They also failed to fill needs at center and receiver. But the Jets did the best they could and finished with a strong draft class.

New_England_Patriots New England Patriots

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

I wrote a more in-depth Patriots draft review in a separate article.  Check it out!

Buffalo_Bills Buffalo Bills

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

The Bills made some very confusing picks, but they also drafted some quality players in between.  They did fill all their biggest needs early, as they didn’t really have many.  They earned a steal by drafting T Cody Ford in the 2nd.  They also drafted a strong TE, Dawson Knox and an OLB, Vosean Joseph in later rounds to fill their other two needs.  They did draft another TE later, but this pick was an unnecessary reach alongside some others.  I also don’t get why they took DT Ed Oliver at #9 when they didn’t need a DT and good o-linemen were available.  It was good that the Bills took a young RB, but the backfield is way to crowded for it, and Round 3 was early for Singletary.  Otherwise, I didn’t mind this draft too much.

Dolphins-logo Miami Dolphins

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

Analysis:

Most of these picks were understandable, but the Dolphins had better options.  It wasn’t easy for Miami in this draft, as they had a lot of needs to fill as they rebuild and they didn’t have many picks to do so.  The rebuilding will need to continue over the next couple years.  Most of these picks filled needs, so that helps Miami’s case.  But a couple of them were reaches, especially the selection of Auburn RB Chandler Cox.  In addition, the Dolphins didn’t really make a point to priorities their biggest of needs.  But overall, I didn’t mind this draft class, but this is only the beginning of a long rebuild for the Fins.

That’s all for this portion of my Draft Grades.  Stay tuned for my reviews of the rest of the AFC.  I’ll be reviewing the AFC North yet, where I feel 1 team highlighted this year’s draft.  Which team is it?  Find out in my next post.

2019 NFL Draft Report Cards: NFC West Edition

Welcome to Part 4 of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Today, I’ll be wrapping up the NFC draft reviews with the NFC West.  Which NFC West teams will benefit from this draft the most?  Keep reading to see my Draft Report Card for each team, including a grade for each pick as well as my final grades.  As I post more articles, I will also include links to the rest of my draft grades.

Image result for nfl draft 2019 logo

NFL Draft Report Cards 2019

NFC East

NFC North

NFC South

NFC West

AFC East

AFC North

AFC South

AFC West

az-cards Arizona Cardinals

Overall Grade: B

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

What I love about this draft is that every pick was made for a good reason.  New head coach Kliff Kingsbury knows Kyler Murray is capable of leading the Cards, so there was no problem with trading Josh Rosen in favor of more security.  Murphy and Thompson add secondary depth at a great value.  The team also filled needs, drafting a trio of receivers, a tackle, a center, and a couple d-linemen.

The team could’ve found a way to fill a few more holes, such as linebacker.  But there was not a single pick in this draft class that I had a real problem with, and Arizona really made their biggest needs a priority.

sf-49ers San Francisco 49ers

Overall Grade: B-

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

Much like Chicago, this draft class is top heavy.  The 2nd overall selection of Nick Bosa was one of my favorite picks in this draft.  He’s a great fit and could eventually lead this rebuilding defense back to glory.  I didn’t mind the Deebo Samuel pick, but D.K. Metcalf would’ve been the smarter choice.  Kaden Smith was a steal in Round 6, so I’m not going to complain there either.

But some of these other picks confused me.  Despite the steal of Smith, the rest of San Francisco’s later round picks were major reaches.  They did need a punter, but taking one in Round 4 is unheard of.  They didn’t need to draft WR Jalen Hurd either.  Deebo Samuel will provide them enough at receiver and Hurd was drafted way too early.   The strong picks early on definitely boost this draft class, but the Niners could’ve added a few more quality players and filled a couple more needs.

los-angeles-rams-symbol Los Angeles Rams

Overall Grade: C+

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

It’s hard to start a draft strong without a first round pick, but the Rams definitely could’ve done better.  They could’ve waited on the safety and running back till later rounds.  There was no need for a corner in Round 3, especially someone who I didn’t have being drafted.  The team did rebound in the later rounds, snagging a strong tackle in David Edwards and a replacement for Ndamukong Suh in Greg Gaines.

There were some needs that weren’t filled as early as they should’ve been or were completely ignored.  The Rams interior o-line still needs serious help.  But there were some strong selections in the later rounds that will definitely highlight this draft class.

seattle-seahawks Seattle Seahawks

Overall Grade: C

Draft Report Card:

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Analysis:

There weren’t too many straight up confusing picks in this draft, but there weren’t many eye popping picks either.  The team made a lot of reaches in the early rounds, and that definitely brings their grade down significantly.  But the Seahawks did, to an extent, redeem themselves.  They received a blatant steal when they drafted WR D.K. Metcalf at the end of the 2nd round.  They continued to add to their depleted receiving corps throughout this draft, as Doug Baldwin will no longer be on the team.

But while they hyperfocused on finding Russell Wilson some guys to throw to, they threw aside some of their other needs.  The team is still in desperate need of secondary depth despite drafting a safety.  It wouldn’t have hurt to take a new TE either.  But the team did manage to fill a good number of holes despite their reaches, so you have to give them some credit for that.


 

That’s all for this portion of my NFL Draft Report Cards.  Next time, I’ll shift my attention to the AFC, starting with New England’s division, the AFC East.  Did the Pats outwit their division rivals again this year?  Stay tuned to find out what I think.

 

MIAA Tennis Finals: My Cousins Help Weston win D3 Boys & Girls

Due to bad weather taking place throughout most of the week, all of the MIAA’s Tennis Finals were moved to today.  The girls played at St. John’s High School in Shrewsbury, and the boys played about a mile away at Shrewsbury High School.

12 teams across 3 divisions played in the finals, but only two schools had both a boys team and a girls team in the finals.  Those schools?  Algonquin, my high school, and Weston, my cousins’ high school.

Algonquin, a division 1 school, lost both finals.  The boys team lost to Brookline 5 matches to 0.  The girls team, led by freshman Olivia Almy among others, came into these finals undefeated but fell to Acton-Boxborough 4-1.

Weston, on the other hand, is in Division 3.  They became the only high school in the state where both the boys team and the girls team won their respective divisions.  Both my cousins played on these teams.

My cousin, freshman Lola Philipkosky and the Weston girls played first, taking on Lee High School, who traveled all the way from the Berkshires.  In high school team tennis, 3 singles matches and 2 doubles matches are played.  Twins Kayla and Jayme Leschly won Weston two of the singles matches before the 2nd set of Lola’s doubles match even began.  Lola and her partner Livvy Lathrop had won the first set 6-2.  Starting the 2nd set, Lola and Livvy knew if they could win their match over Lee freshmen Caroline Maloney and Rachel Wendling, Weston would clinch the MIAA Championship.

Livvy and Lola worked well together and won several short points with powerful deep returns.  Their return game helped them break service games in both sets.  The senior-freshman 1st doubles pair also served very well and held most of their service games which helped them win both sets 6-2, 6-2 and clinch the championship for Weston.

Lola Philipkosky serving

I spoke with Lola and Livvy shortly after their match:

Lee won the final singles match and the final doubles match, but it didn’t matter after Lola and Livvy had won to give Weston the 3 wins they needed to be crowned MIAA champions.

Shortly before the Weston girls were given their MIAA trophy, my cousin, sophomore Michael Philipkosky, and the Weston boys took on Hopedale in the MIAA finals for the second straight year.  Last year, Michael did not get the opportunity to play in the finals.  This year, however, he worked his way up and ended up playing 3rd singles for Weston in the state finals.  All 5 matches were dominated by Weston, not losing a set.  Michael’s match was the 2nd to finish.  Michael watched the final three finish soon after and went to celebrate with his teammates.  Check out some highlights of their celebration as well as my interview with him after he received his medal:

It was a big day for the Weston Wildcats, as both teams and both my cousins became MIAA tennis champions.

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