PAWTUCKET — Westerly High's boys tennis team was not in a good place about midway through the Division III championships Saturday morning at Slater Park.
Westerly was already trailing 1-0 after a loss at third doubles; Blake Busch was down 5-2 in the first set of his match at No. 1 singles; and the first two doubles teams lost their first sets.
It appeared Coventry was on its way to the title. But the Bulldogs got it together and emerged with the school's first boys tennis championship, 4-2.
"When our first doubles took the lead, 5-4, in the second set the whole flow of the match changed," Westerly coach Terence McAndrew said. "The singles have been the linchpin of the team the entire season. But these kids [in doubles] just keep working.
"I have to give a lot of credit to [assistant coach] Greg Ferraro for calming down one doubles, and second doubles after they lost the first set."
Westerly's Brandon Larossa earned the first win of the match for the Bulldogs at No. 4 singles, 6-3, 6-4. Larossa trailed 4-1 in the second set before coming back to earn the win.
"He just really buckles down in pressure situations," McAndrew said.
Busch, at first singles, won five straight games to take the first set, 7-5, and took the second, 6-3, against Zach Hammer. That tied the match, 2-2.
"The other kid played terrific," McAndrew said. "Blake's game is just grind it out, grind it out. I told him to extend the rallies a little longer. I had a feeling the other guy would start to miss a little."
Ryan Teixeira put the Bulldogs ahead, 3-2, with a win at second singles. Teixiera prevailed 6-1, 7-6 (6).
Teixeira trailed 5-4 in the tiebreaker.
"When it came down to it, I just needed to keep my cool and play my game," Teixeira said. "Luckily, I was able to do that."
Teixeira's match was the last one in singles. The match was still very much in doubt at that point with the remaining two doubles matches in third sets.
"It's tough because this is a very exciting situation to be in," Teixeira said. "And with everything going on around me, I obviously wanted to know how my teammates were doing.
"But I was able, for the most part, to stick with it and focus on my game instead of theirs."
All eyes turned to doubles after Teixeira's win, with the Bulldogs needing one more point for the title.
Westery's No. 1 doubles team of Joel Henry and Kyle Cioffi lost the first set 6-1, but took the second, 6-4. They opened a 5-3 lead in the deciding set.
Henry was able to deliver two consecutive serves that Coventry could not return. The final one clinched the title.
"I just didn't want to make a dumb mistake," Henry said. "My serving was down and I think serving is what won us the match."
Cioffi said the first set was close, despite the loss.
"I think the first four games were deuce games and we lost all of them," Cioffi said. "The second set we learned from our mistakes. It was a matter of closing out games and we just finished and came through."
Henry and Cioffi were well aware that the attention of the media and the fans had turned to their match.
"We just tried to keep our cool, hit nice shots, stay composed so we could get the point," Cioffi said. "[Henry] was hitting great serves and I was killing the ball when a light ball came over.
"We closed out the game, finished the point and won the championship."
Sebastian Reisch and Chris Celico had forced a second set at third doubles with a tiebreaker win in the second set. They were trailing when the match ended.
Jackie Chen and Noah Silva lost, 6-0, 6-0, at third doubles. J.D. Dauphinais lost his first match of the year to a Division III opponent, 6-3, 6-3, at third singles.
Coventry, the top seed in the tournament, finished the season 13-3. Westerly, the No. 2 seed, finished 14-2. After dropping the first two matches of the season, including one to Coventry, the Bulldogs closed with 14 straight wins.
"I know there isn't a state banner for boys tennis in the gym, so I am looking forward to that white state champion banner going up," McAndrew said. "It's Westerly's 350th anniversary so it's nice to get it this year.
"I think it's great. The kids deserved it They are just a wonderful, wonderful group of kids."