Nighthawks Striving to Keep Climbing Up the Ranks
As the North Haven boys’ tennis team went through a 1-15 season last year, Head Coach John Higgins told his athletes that there was no such thing as losing as long as you learned. Coach Higgins wanted the Nighthawks to put what they learned to good use this season, and he’s pleased with the way that his team has continued progressing on the courts.
North Haven moved to 4-9 on the year after splitting a pair of matchups last week. The Nighthawks took a loss to Amity before finishing the week with a win versus Lyman Hall.
On May 3, North Haven hosted Amity and lost the contest by a 6-1 score. Senior captain Ben Rudikoff claimed a 6-1, 6-2 victory in the No. 2 singles match for North Haven. Coach Higgins said that the Nighthawks knew they were in for a tough test against Amity, but competed hard until the final point while taking on a formidable opponent
North Haven had an opportunity to finish the week with a victory over Lyman Hall on its home court. The Nighthawks came through by winning 6-1 decision at the North Haven Athletic Complex on May 5.
Junior Lucas de Lencastre won the No. 1 singles matchup by the final score of 7-5, 7-5 to help North Haven get the win. Rudikoff notched a 6-3, 6-3 win in the No. 3 singles match 6-3, 6-3; and junior Billy Lipinski was a 6-3, 7-6 (7-6) winner at No. 4 singles.
Sophomore Parthiv Patel and freshman Nicholas Sabina earned a 6-2, 6-1 victory for the Nighthawks in the No. 2 doubles match. North Haven’s No. 3 doubles pairing of juniors Alex Ranciato and Evan Looney won their match by the tally of 6-3, 6-1.
Coach Higgins felt glad to see North Haven shake off its loss to Amity by defeating Lyman Hall. Higgins said that the Nighthawks were able to find the wind in their sails and get their season headed in the right direction again with the victory.
“They came back against Lyman Hall. Our team really performed well. Good wins all around by the doubles and singles teams,” Coach Higgins said. “We gutted out a tough couple of matches. It was a good win for the team. The kids are working hard. They’re competing. That’s all I can ask for.”
Rudikoff is leading the Nighthawks as the team’s senior captain this year. He holds a record of 11-2 competing at the No. 2 singles spot. Coach Higgins said that Rudikoff is a leader who is respected by his teammates and a player who has helped North Haven win some tight matches .
“He has done a great job. He’s a good leader. The kids look up to him,” said Higgins of Rudikoff. “He has won a lot of good matches against a lot of really good players. He always figures a way out to beat the game plan. It’s something you can’t teach. I tell the kids, ‘Look at what Ben is doing.’ He has done a phenomenal job.”
Joining Rudikoff in the singles lineup is de Lencastre, who is playing in the No. 1 spot for the Nighthawks. In that role, de Lencastre has faced stiff competition all season, including some of the top players in the state. However, Coach Higgins said that de Lencastre is holding serve and gaining valuable experience that will benefit him for the rest of this season and beyond.
With Rudikoff at the No. 2 spot, freshman Seth Tobin is playing the No. 3 singles position for North Haven. Coach Higgins said that Tobin has great potential and is displaying solid mechanics. With the technical side of the game under Tobin’s belt, Higgins is looking for the freshman to show continual improvement as he plays more varsity matches.
Lipinski is playing No. 4 singles for the Nighthawks. Coach Higgins said that the junior has always been a hard worker and has grinded out some key victories for the team. Just like the rest of the singles lineup, Higgins expects Lipinski to keep getting better as North Haven enters the home stretch of its season.
While the singles lineup has been mostly intact, North Haven’s doubles lineup has gone through a few changes this year. Senior Justin Geremia and junior Jess Hansard are playing in the No. 1 doubles spot for the Nighthawks. Coach Higgins said that the duo has battled hard and found ways to win while taking on some top-notch tandems.
Patel and fellow sophomore Nathan Oh have been playing No. 2 doubles, although Oh has also seen time at the No. 1 slot alongside partners such as Sabina and junior Jonathan Chin. When it comes to Patel and Oh, Coach Higgins said that both players have been impressive as sophomores and show plenty of potential moving forward.
The same can be said for the No. 3 doubles team of juniors Ranciato and Mooney. While others players have seen time in that spot, Coach Higgins said the pairing of Ranciato and Mooney has been consistent and jelled well throughout the season.
North Haven features plenty of younger players between its singles and doubles lineups. Outside of Rudikoff and Geremia, who Coach Higgins admits will be big losses, everyone on the team will be slated to return next year. Higgins is hoping that this season is serving as another good learning experience for North Haven’s players as the program looks to continue growing in future campaigns.
“I really look forward to next year based on that lineup. Missing Ben and Justin will definitely hurt, but I think we can fill it back with some youth,” Coach Higgins said. “They’re young and, if they keep at it, they could be very good. It really looks good for next year.”
One place where Coach Higgins wants the Nighthawks to gain experience is in the postseason. North Haven needs to win four of its last seven regular-season matches to qualify for the Class M State Tournament, and Higgins feels confident that his team can reach that mark. As the Nighthawks try to make it there, Higgins is going to implore his athletes to keep working hard and enjoy their time between the baselines.
“I’m very optimistic, but I think we’re going to make it. It was the goal we set at the beginning of the year. I expected the guys to work toward that goal, and they are. They’re excited,” said Higgins. “These kids want to play in the State Tournament. It’ll be good for the kids and the program. Work hard, compete, and have fun—they’re doing it.”
The North Haven boys’ tennis team’s roster features senior captain Ben Rudikoff; senior Justin Geremia; juniors Jonathan Chin, Lucas de Lencastre, Oscar Hammarlund, Jess Hansard, Billy Lipinski, Evan Looney, Ellywn Michael, and Alex Ranciato; sophomores Nathan Oh and Parthiv Patel; and freshmen Andrew Bautz, Hashim Ibrahim, Nicholas Sabina, and Seth Tobin.
Head Coach John Higgins is joined by Assistant Coach Mark Enslein. Higgins said that Enslein has been crucial in helping the Nighthawks improve in every aspect of their game this season.