MONTPELIER — Following a wintry start to the spring season, it didn’t take long for Montpelier’s tennis players to warm up to the outside game.
The Capital City courts were covered in snow early in the week, but the Solons seized a sunny window Thursday and kicked off the season with a 6-0 victory over Hartford. Ben Hancock-Song, Josh Golonka, Willem Slade, Emmett Kolber and Joseph Mensah earned singles victories for the Solons, who held one outside practice during preseason.
“(Wednesday) we went out for 30 minutes just to show them what it’s like when your hands are cold and your racquet is cold,” Montpelier coach Lilli Cain said. “The kids who started off first today were fine because it was warmer at 3 p.m. But the kids that went out last were in their sweat suits, and they were still cold.”
Hancock-Song returns as the most experienced singles player for a Solons program that has recorded four straight winning seasons. Montpelier went a combined 30-3 the past two years, making back-to-back semifinal appearances. Hancock-Song was in command from start to finish in the opener, coasting to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Ethan Michaels.
“Ben has been playing all winter and all summer,” Cain said. “He’s been very dedicated.”
Golonka has been a doubles standout for MHS but kicked off the 2019 campaign at No. 2 singles. It’s a big jump to make in one year but he passed his first test with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Andrew St. Martin.
“Josh played very nice cross-court shots and services,” Cain said. “Normally in doubles he’s a net player, and you don’t move as much. But he was hustling to get the ball and going to net when he needed to. And he was quick on his feet with his ground strokes.”
Slade won the match of the day at No. 3 singles. He was one of the first players on the courts and the last player to leave after putting the finishing touches on a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Nick Jones.
“In the second set Willem was down 4-3 and 5-4, and he came back and broke his opponent twice,” Cain said. “And he finished out with a really strong service game to go ahead 6-5. It was his strongest service game I’ve seen. His opponent was very aggressive at the net and hit these volleys that just barely dropped over the net, so it didn’t leave Willem much to work with.”
Kolber picked up another point for the Solons at No. 4 singles. The serve-and-volley specialist faced a tough second-set challenge but held on for a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Matthew Zietz.
“Emmett is my player that loves to go to the net,” Cain said. “He was consistent in the backcourt today. But any chance he could go to net, he did. He played some doubles last year and got comfortable there. With his height, he just takes control of the game that way.”
Mensah capped the singles sweep at the No. 5 position. The first-year varsity player defeated Bikini Singh, 6-2, 6-1.
“Jojo played as a youth in the Montpelier clinics and came back to it this year,” Cain said. “He’s very athletic and he loves to change it up with his topspin and his cut shots. And he finished the match with a beautiful topspin forehand winner.”
Ryan McSweeney and Sam Watson won by forfeit at No. 1 doubles. Montpelier will host Harwood on April 24.