STONINGTON — Stonington High opened the boys tennis season with nine straight victories, finished 12-4 overall and won the ECC Division II regular-season title. This despite having just two seniors on the roster and playing a more difficult schedule than in recent years.
And the Bears were recognized for it, placing four on the Division II first team: juniors Will Michelson and Sean Bessette in singles, and senior Ben Anderson and junior Jake Stiger in doubles.
Michelson, who played in the No. 1 singles position, finished an impressive 20-5. He reached the ECC singles final and made it to the Class S quarterfinals. Seeded 13th the state tournament, he upset No. 4 Jeffrey Riggio of Valley Regional, 7-5, 5-7, 12-10, in the third round.
Stonington coach John Adriano said Michelson matured a lot over last season, when he was a D-II first-team pick after going 15-3 from the No. 2 slot.
“He tightened up his game,” Adriano added. “He played much more consistent tennis. The fact that he could come back [in a match] when he was behind is a sign of his experience and maturity.”
Michelson’s power, aggressive approach and shot-making ability combine to make him tough to beat.
“He’s the kind of player looking to hit a winner as opposed to waiting for his opponent to make a mistake,” Adriano said. “When a shot-maker is having a good day, he’s probably gonna win the match, and the vast majority of the matches William played this year, he made those shots.”
Bessette, Stonington’s No. 2 singles player, went 17-5.
He reached the ECC quaterfinals (losing to Michelson, 6-4, 6-3), and advanced to the third round of the Class S tourney.
“Sean can be summed up in one word: competitive,” Adriano said. “He’s as competitive as they come. More than he likes to win, he hates to lose. I’ll take a guy like that any day. He’s a consistent player, a hard fighter. You’re gonna have to go out and beat him. He’s just not gonna hand it to you.”
Stiger and Anderson finished 8-1 as a doubles team, their only loss coming against Ledyard, 6-3, 7-5.
Stiger played No. 1 singles for the Bears last year and went 16-6 to earn D-II first-team honors. This season, he played strictly doubles.
“He just has an all-around game; there are no chinks in the armor,” Adriano said. “Great ground strokes, quick, soft hands at the net, a good serve, good instincts. He’s tough to beat whether he’s playing singles or doubles.”
Stiger was also the team’s scholar-athlete award winner.
Anderson, a repeat first-team pick in doubles, has steadily improved each season, Adriano said.
“Every year that he came back, he improved his game. ‘Just get a little big better each year,’ that’s all we ask. He got better each year, which made him a very valuable player for us,” Adriano said.
Junior Kyle Remmert, the Bears’ No. 3 singles player, earned Division II honorable-mention honors after a 12-3 season. Remmert was also the sportsmanship award winner.
Stonington was 12-2 before losing its final two regular-season matches to a strong Morgan team and to East Lyme, which was undefeated at the time. The Bears were 6-1 in ECC D-II.