Nighthawks Striving to Maintain Climbing Up the Ranks

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By By Dan Fappiano • 5/8/2022 3:06 pm EST

When the North Haven boys’ tennis team went through a 1-15 season last year, head coach John Higgins told his athletes that there’s no such thing as losing as long as you learn. Coach Higgins wanted the Nighthawks to put what they learned this season to good use, and he’s pleased with the way his team has progressed on the courts.

North Haven moved up to 4-9 this year after sharing two matchups last week. The Nighthawks lost to Amity before ending the week by beating Lyman Hall.

On May 3, North Haven hosted Amity and lost the contest 6-1. Senior captain Ben Rudikoff won in singles game No. 2 for North Haven 6-1, 6-2. Coach Higgins said the Nighthawks knew said they faced a tough test against Amity but had fought hard to the last point while facing a formidable opponent

North Haven had an opportunity to end the week with a win over Lyman Hall on their home court. The Nighthawks won 6-1 on May 5 at the North Haven Athletic Complex.

Junior Lucas de Lencastre won the No. 1 singles matchup with a final score of 7-5, 7-5 to help North Haven win. Rudikoff scored a 6-3, 6-3 win 6-3, 6-3 in singles match #3; and junior Billy Lipinski was a 6-3, 7-6 (7-6) winner at No. 4 in singles.

Sophomore Parthiv Patel and freshman Nicholas Sabina earned a 6-2, 6-1 win for the Nighthawks in doubles No. 2. North Haven’s doubles No. 3, consisting of juniors Alex Ranciato and Evan Looney, won their match at 6: 3, 6:1.

Coach Higgins was happy that North Haven shrugged off their loss to Amity by beating Lyman Hall. Higgins said the Nighthawks were able to find the wind in their sails and put their season back on the right track with the win.

“They came back against Lyman Hall. Our team played really well. Good wins by the doubles and singles teams all round,” said Coach Higgins. “We have identified a couple of tough games. It was a good win for the team. The kids work hard. you compete. That’s all I can ask.”

Rudikoff is leading the Nighthawks as the team’s senior captain this year. He holds a record of 11-2 competing for second place in singles. Coach Higgins said Rudikoff is a leader respected by his teammates and a player who has helped North Haven win some close games.

“He did a great job. He’s a good leader. The kids look up to him,” Higgins said of Rudikoff. “He won a lot of good games against a lot of really good players. He always finds a way to beat the game plan. It’s something you can’t teach. I say to the kids, ‘Look at what Ben is doing.’ He did a phenomenal job.”

Joining Rudikoff in the singles lineup is de Lencastre, who plays for the Nighthawks at number 1. In that role, de Lencastre faced stiff competition throughout the season, including some of the best players in the state. However, manager Higgins said de Lencastre is holding serve and gaining valuable experience that will serve him well for the rest of this season and beyond.

With Rudikoff at No. 2, freshman Seth Tobin plays the No. 3 singles position for North Haven. Coach Higgins said that Tobin has great potential and shows solid mechanics early on. With the technical side of the game under Tobin’s belt, Higgins is looking for the freshman who will continually improve as he plays more varsity matches.

Lipinski performs #4 singles for the Nighthawks. Coach Higgins said the junior has always been a hard worker and has picked up some important wins for the team. Just like the rest of the individual lineup, Higgins expects Lipinski to keep getting better as North Haven enters the home stretch of his season.

While the singles lineup was largely intact, North Haven’s doubles lineup has seen some changes this year. Senior Justin Geremia and Junior Jess Hansard play #1 in doubles for the Nighthawks. Trainer Higgins said the duo fought hard and found ways to win while taking on some top-flight tandems.

Patel and colleague Nathan Oh have played in No. 2 doubles, although Oh has also seen time in the No. 1 slot alongside partners like Sabina and junior Jonathan Chin. Regarding Patel and Oh, Coach Higgins said both players have been impressive sophomores and show a lot of potential going forward.

Ditto for juniors Ranciato and Mooney’s No. 3 doubles team. While other players have seen time at this point, Coach Higgins said Ranciato and Mooney’s pairing has been consistent and well-gelled throughout the season.

North Haven features many younger players in its singles and doubles lineups. Aside from Rudikoff and Geremia, who coach Higgins admits will make big losses, everyone on the team will return next year. Higgins hopes this season will be another good learning experience for North Haven players as the program is expected to continue to grow in future campaigns.

“I’m really looking forward to next year based on this lineup. The absence of Ben and Justin will definitely hurt, but I think we can make up for it with some youth,” said Coach Higgins. “They are young and if they keep at it they could be very good. Things are looking really good for next year.”

One place Coach Higgins wants the Nighthawks to gain experience is in the postseason. North Haven needs to win four of their last seven regular-season games to qualify for the Class M State Tournament, and Higgins is confident his team can reach that mark. As the Nighthawks try to make it there, Higgins will be imploring his athletes to keep working hard and enjoying their time between baselines.

“I’m very optimistic, but I think we’ll make it. That was the goal we set ourselves at the beginning of the year. I expected the guys to work towards that goal and they are. They’re excited,” Higgins said. “These children want to play in the state tournament. It will be good for the kids and the program. Work hard, compete and have fun – they do it.”

The North Haven boys’ tennis team roster includes 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 newcomers Andrew Bautz, Hashim Ibrahim, Nicholas Sabina and Seth Tobin.

Head coach John Higgins will be joined by assistant coach Mark Enslein. Higgins said Enslein was instrumental in helping the Nighthawks improve in every aspect of their game this season.”