Freeman Headlines Memorable Junior Sectionals
James Maimonis, Communications and Engagement Coordinator | June 29, 2017
NEW HAVEN & WEST HAVEN, CT- Bad weather has become the new M.O. of Junior Sectionals, with this year being the worst offender in recent memory. At least parts of three days of the five-day tournament were forced to be played indoors at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center at Yale University due to rain. But the eight champions and hundreds of top junior players who competed from June 23-27 knew that despite the inclement weather, Junior Sectionals was still their Super Bowl and it was time to rise to the occasion.
“The competition was tremendous throughout all age divisions, and we saw some great storylines this tournament,” said Dave Zeutas-Broer, USTA New England Player Development Manager. “We’ve had bad weather before, and thanks to Tournament Director Denise Griffin’s preparation and planning, we knew what to expect from a management standpoint. ADVERTISEMENT The players didn’t complain and focused on their ultimate goal of winning, and that made the tournament run a lot smoother.”
In addition to the rain delays and parades from indoor to outdoor courts and vice versa, the 2017 New England Junior Sectionals featured an array of unique storylines. The tournament saw the crowning of a back-to-back champion, a winner new to New England, siblings and friends competing alongside and against one another and no shortage of emotions throughout. This was also the first time Sectionals has featured a one-day qualifying tournament.
Listed below are this year’s Sectionals winners:
Boys’ 18s- Max Freeman (Ashland, MA)
This was Freeman’s second straight title in the Boys’ 18s division and third overall (Boys’ 16s). Coming in as the defending champion and top seed, the Vanderbilt commit understood the pressure he was facing, but also knew what he was capable of.
“It’s always a little different when you’re the No. 1 seed. My opponents would tell me, ‘you’re the one everyone’s going after.’ It’s a different kind of pressure, and I felt that, but I’m happy to have gotten through it,” Freeman said.
The top heavy Boys’ 18s division was without nationally ranked players Matt Lord and Richard Ciamarra, who Freeman took down in the semifinals and finals respectively in last year’s tournament, but waiting in the wings were brothers Ryan and Connor Fu and last year’s third-place finisher, Peter Conklin.
Freeman defeated Connor Fu in the semifinals, where he played his “most intense tiebreaker ever” in the first set, winning 12-10, and Ryan in the finals, who pushed him to his limit.
Freeman went down 1-3 on Ryan Fu after dropping the first-set tiebreak 4-7, and that’s when the match turned in favor of the defending champ.
“I got a little mad at myself. Normally I don’t get mad at myself, but I felt like I was striking the ball well enough and was playing well enough to win and I wasn’t winning,” Freeman said. “I knew I just had to be a little more disciplined here and there, and I was confident that I was playing well enough to win, I just needed to keep it up and do a little bit more to get the results.”
After nearly falling behind 1-4, he fought back to hold serve and eventually take the set, 6-4. Freeman then went on to outlast Fu in the third set, 6-3, to take home his third Sectionals title.
“Ever since I started playing tennis, I’ve really tried to gear my game up for the 16s and 18s, and that’s where I wanted to play my best tennis, so it feels really good to peak at the time I wanted to, which I feel is probably the most important time,” Freeman said.
For Freeman, this tournament was also the final time he would play alongside his sister, Page (third place in Girls’ 18s), before heading off to college.
“In the quarterfinals, we played next to each other for last time, and that was moment I’ll remember forever. We’ve played next to each other countless times, but I’ve kind of taken it for granted until I realized, damn this is really the last time, so it was a nice moment,” he said.
Freeman will compete in the USTA National Team Championships, National Clay Courts and National Championships before heading off to college in the fall.
Girls’ 18s- Lana Mavor (Yarmouth, ME)
The top-ranked player in the Girls’ 16s is now the 18s Sectional champion. Lana Mavor won her qualifying match and entered the draw unseeded, only to go on defeat the No. 1, 2, 5 and 7 seeds on her way to the championship.
“I haven’t played in this high level tournament before in the 18s, just a few L6s, so I came in with an open mind and ready to see what happened,” Mavor said.
Mavor won her first three rounds in straight sets, but saw herself crawling from behind early in her semifinal matchup. She dropped her first set to Page Freeman, 3-6, but battled back to win the next two in convincing fashion, 6-4, 6-1.
“I think sometimes it’s just getting used to my opponent. I haven’t really played any of these girls, so I didn’t know their games, and getting used to them and thinking how to beat them takes some time,” she said. “By the third set, you’ve usually figured out their strengths and weaknesses, and I always come out fired up in the third, so if they’re not ready to play, it goes fairly easily.”
In the final, Mavor won her first set against top-seeded Julia Newman, but dropped the second by the same score. Coming out firing in the third set, Mavor went up 5-0 and cruised to a 6-1 victory.
Boys’ 16s- Matthew Kandel (Greenfield, MA)
An old face back in the New England Section, Matthew Kandel took home the Boys’ 16s title after living and training in South Carolina for the past two years. His finals opponent, Daniel Milavsky, was also his opponent in his last New England championship match, an L6 in Connecticut. Once again, Kandel defeated Milavsky, 6-2, 6-3, in a matchup that was closer than the score showed.
“He’s a huge hitter and he played well, and it was a battle all the way through,” Kandel said.
Kandel, who came in as a wildcard, will be attending Groton School in the fall and plans to stay in New England until graduation.
“It’s definitely great to win the tournament Playing a lot of players I haven’t faced before, it was just an awesome experience to come back here and win my first tournament,” he said.
“It’s nice getting my name heard in New England, and people know who I am now and I know a few more players. Hopefully I’ll start getting to know even more and make some friends up here soon.”
Girls’ 16s- Eleanor Schulson (Newburyport, MA)
The No. 6 seed in the Girls’ 16s division coasted to victory thanks to straight set wins in each of her four tournament matches. She capped off her run with a 6-2, 6-2 showing against longstanding rival, Nastasya Semenovski.
Semenovski and Schulson, who are ranked 1 and 2 respectively in the 14s, played up to the competition to reach the finals and square off for the fourth time this year.
“She beat me three times already,” Schulson said. “We have to play lots of indoor tournaments in New England, so playing outside actually helped me. The sun and wind worked to my advantage, and I was able to get a few more free points than I normally would.”
Schulson, who faced some difficult times earlier this season, took down top-seeded Lexi Kubas in the quarterfinals and No. 8 seed Olivia Almy in the semis to set up the ultimate rematch.
“I’m really excited and thankful that I even made it to this point. Went through a really rough patch this winter and, so I felt really achieved and proud of myself for the hard work I’ve put in,” she said. “I’ve started training smarter and more effectively and now I know specifically what I need to work on. I’ve set small goals on what I needed to improve on between months, and from there, I was able to gain confidence.”
Schulson’s sister and number one fan, Caroline, also competed in the 12s finals earlier in the day.
“That was awesome and she’s always there supporting me. We train a lot together and it’s great for me to watch her, but it’s also difficult because I get so nervous,” Schulson said.
Boys’ 14s- Walker Oberg (Weston, MA)
For Walker Oberg, 2017 has been very different. But change isn’t always a bad thing. Never getting past the first round at Sectionals, Oberg realized he needed to try something new. So last year, he changed his grip, which used to be very far Western.
“It’s been a bit of a process, but it’s really good now. Now I can hit bigger balls than I could before, and it’s helping me be more aggressive. I never used to be able to come to the net, but I’ve incorporate net play more in my game, and it feels like it’s all coming together,” Oberg said.
Since Winter Sectionals, where he admittedly struggled, Oberg has won an L5 tournament, made two finals appearances in L4s, and has defeated opponents in the 16s age division.
With a newfound confidence and an improved all-around game, Oberg cruised to the finals, winning each match in straight sets and setting up a date with good friend and practice partner Kyle McCandless.
“I prefer playing friends. I sometimes get nervous when I play people I’m not great friends with or rivals with me, but with Kyle, I always know it’s going to be a clean match, and it’s a good feeling knowing you have someone out there that’s not going to cause any problems,” Oberg said.
In his most difficult match of the tournament, Oberg got off to a 7-5 first-set lead, which to him, meant nothing.
“We’re so evenly matched and know each other’s game so well, you just know it’s going to go to three sets,” Oberg said. I’ve actually never played Kyle when it’s not been three sets. We practice together five times a week and we play three set matches constantly, so in my head after the first set I said, ‘I’m only one third of the way done.”
And boy was he right. McCandless stormed back to grab a 7-5 second-set victory, setting up another classic three-setter with the boys from the New England Academy of Tennis.
Oberg eventually outlasted McCandless, 6-2, in the decisive set, to put a close to this year’s chapter, but the Oberg/McCandless book is certainly far from finished.
Girls’ 14s- Julia DeLuca (Darien, CT)
Similarly to Oberg, Julia DeLuca had little trouble reaching the finals. When she got there however, top seed and recent foe Sam Svendsen was waiting for her. Svendsen had gotten the better of DeLuca in their three recent matchups, winning the first two in straights and the third in three sets.
“I was really excited tis time because I finally put myself in a position to win. There was a lot of buildup because it’s sectionals, and I had been focusing a lot in the weeks before because I had a feeling I’d play her,” DeLuca said.
And the fourth time was finally the charm, and the big one for DeLuca, who outlasted Svendsen 6-1, 6-4 in their fourth matchup in recent memory.
She explained what the difference was for her this time around.
“I was focused on being fit and having stamina. Normally when I play her, I make so many errors, so I was focusing on being consistent but still staying aggressive. I was a little nervous, but I was able to control my nerves and be confident and think that I could do it,” DeLuca said.
DeLuca, who also reached the finals of Winter Sectionals, looks to carry her momentum into the summer season.
Boys’ 12s- Petro Kuzmenok (Fairfield, CT)
Petro Kuzmenok and Ryan Nash have had some memorable battles this year at the top of the 12s division, and their rivalry stayed on course at Sectionals. Although both have won their share of head-to-head matchups, Kuzmenok has gotten the better of Nash of late.
Kuzmenok came out on top in a L4 final in Nashua, NH earlier in June, and defeated Nash in three sets in a hard-fought Sectionals final.
“Ryan plays very hard and we’ve both won and lost matches over the years, but I think I’ve figured out his game a little better now so I feel more confident playing him,” Kuzmenok said.
After falling behind a set, 3-6, Kuzmenok knew the comeback wasn’t going to be easy, but he was determined to continue his winning ways. The confident Kuzmenok grinded out the next two sets, winning 6-3, 6-2 to upend the No. 1 seeded Nash.
“Down the first set, I knew I could pull it out. I was really motivated to win this, as it is a really important tournament,” Kuzmenok said. “I wanted to win to make my family proud but I also felt I should win. I know I can play with all these people in the tournament.”
He added, “I feel really grateful for my coaches and people who support me, because they’re the ones that make me better and the reason I’m able to win, so I feel blessed.”
Girls’ 12s- Violet Robbins (Fairfield, CT)
To a fan, Violet Robbins might have had two of the most entertaining matches of the entire tournament, but to her, they might have been the most grueling.
“I’m tired but happy. I really wanted this last year but lost in the semifinals, so I finally got it and had the pleasure of winning,” Robbins said.
In both the semifinal and finals rounds against Anna Nguyen and Caroline Schulson respectively, the No. 3 Robbins seed went up a set early but dropped the following set 1-6. With her family, coaches and good luck charm behind her, she was able to will herself to third-set victories and the eventual championship.
“I knew it would be tough but just wanted to do my best. I knew I could get to the finals, and with everyone supporting me, it really helps me stay focused and encourages me, and I love that,” Robbins said.
In her last chance to capture the Sectional title at the 12s age division, she flaunted her coveted Spiderman t-shirt, hoping it would give her an edge.
“I love superheroes and wear superhero shirts to all my matches, and I always wear my favorite ones for finals matches,” she said.
Below are the complete tournament results:
Boys' 18s Singles
F- (1) Maxwell Freeman d. (2) Ryan Fu 6-7(4); 6-4; 6-3
SF- (2) Ryan Fu d. (3) Peter Conklin 6-4; 6-3
SF- (1) Maxwell Freeman d. (5) Connor Fu 7-6(10); 6-0
Q- (2) Ryan Fu d. (7) Harris Foulkes 6-0; 6-4
PL-S- Mark Sverdlov d. (7) Harris Foulkes 6-0; 6-4
PL-S- (4) Nikita Larichev d. (8) Clayton Thompson 6-3; 6-3
PL-F- (4) Nikita Larichev d. Mark Sverdlov 4-6; 6-4; 10-7
PL- (5) Connor Fu d. (3) Peter Conklin 7-5; 6-3
Boys' 16s Singles
F- (4) Matthew Kandel d. (5) Daniel Milavsky 6-2; 6-3
SF- (4) Matthew Kandel d. (2) Christopher Li 6-2; 4-0Ret (inj)
SF- (5) Daniel Milavsky d. (3) Michael Karr 7-5; 5-7; 6-3
Q- (2) Christopher Li d. (7) Derek Shen 4-6; 6-2; 7-5
PL-S- Sam Feldman d. (7) Derek Shen 6-4; 6-2
PL-S- Andrew Ilie d. (8) Luke Riemann 6-3; 6-2
PL-F- Andrew Ilie d. Sam Feldman 7-6(4); 6-1
PL- (3) Michael Karr d. (2) Christopher Li Wo (inj)
Boys' 14s Singles
F- (5) Walker Oberg d. (3) Kyle McCandless 7-5; 5-7; 6-2
SF- (5) Walker Oberg d. (6) Joshua Israel 6-0; 6-1
SF- (3) Kyle McCandless d. Aidan Reilly 6-3; 6-3
Q- (6) Joshua Israel d. (2) Terrence McGrath 4-6; 6-3; 6-3
PL-S- (4) Teddy Truwit d. (2) Terrence McGrath Wo (ill)
PL-S- (7) Pieter Breuker d. (1) Alex Finkelstein Wo (ill)
PL-F- (4) Teddy Truwit d. (7) Pieter Breuker 6-3; 6-2
PL- Aidan Reilly d. (6) Joshua Israel 6-2; 2-6; 7-5
Boys' 12s Singles
F- (3) Petro Kuzmenok d. (1) Ryan Nash 3-6; 6-3; 6-2
SF- (3) Petro Kuzmenok d. (2) Tristan Stringer 6-0; 6-3
SF- (1) Ryan Nash d. (5) Robert Cooper 6-0; 6-2
Q- (2) Tristan Stringer d. (6) Matthew Fuffo 3-6; 6-4; 7-5
PL-S (6) Matthew Fuffo d. (7) Alex Yi Wo (inj)
PL-S Davis McDonald d. Matisse Farzam 6-4Ret (ill)
PL-F Davis McDonald d. (6) Matthew Fuffo 6-2; 6-0
PL (2) Tristan Stringer d. (5) Robert Cooper 6-3; 6-0
Girls' 18s Singles
F- Lana Mavor d. (1) Julia Newman 1-6; 6-1; 6-1
SF- Lana Mavor d. (5) Page Freeman 3-6; 6-4; 6-1
SF- (1) Julia Newman d. (4) Sydney Weinberg 3-6; 6-1; 7-5
Q- Lana Mavor d. (7) Sarah Campbell 6-3; 6-3
PL-S- (7) Sarah Campbell d. Marion Conklin 6-4; 1-6; 10-7
PL-S- Mia Wallace d. (6) Maggie Dorr 6-2; 6-0
PL-F- (7) Sarah Campbell d. Mia Wallace 6-1; 6-2
PL- (5) Page Freeman d. (4) Sydney Weinberg 7-5; 6-2
Girls' 16s Singles
F- (6) Eleanor Schulson d. Nastasya Semenovski 6-2; 6-2
SF- Nastasya Semenovski d. (2) Iris Gallo 3-6; 7-6(1); 7-6(5)
SF- (6) Eleanor Schulson d. (8) Olivia Almy 6-3; 6-2
Q- (2) Iris Gallo d. Grace Campanella 6-3; 6-0
PL-S- (5) Alexandra Dewire d. Grace Campanella Wo (inj)
PL-S- (1) Lexi Kubas d. (3) Samantha Falcon 6-3; 6-1
PL-F- (1) Lexi Kubas d. (5) Alexandra Dewire 7-6(3); 2-6; 10-5
PL- (8) Olivia Almy d. (2) Iris Gallo 7-5; 2-6; 6-4
Girls' 14s Singles
F- (2) Julia DeLuca d. (1) Samantha Svendsen 6-1; 6-4
SF- (2) Julia DeLuca d. (4) Nina Farhat 6-0; 6-1
SF- (1) Samantha Svendsen d. (3) Riya Singh 6-1; 6-1
Q- (2) Julia DeLuca d. (6) Sahana Raman 6-0; 6-3
PL-S- (6) Sahana Raman d. (8) Bayley Sheinin 7-5; 3-6; 10-4
PL-S- (7) Anna Cornelissen d. (5) Emily Parkerson 6-3; 6-0
PL-F- (6) Sahana Raman d. (7) Anna Cornelissen 6-3; 6-2
PL- (4) Nina Farhat d. (3) Riya Singh 6-3; 2-6; 6-4
Girls’ 12s Singles
F- (3) Violet Robbins d. (4) Caroline Schulson 6-1; 1-6; 6-4
SF- (3) Violet Robbins d. (2) Anna Nguyen 6-3; 1-6; 6-4
SF- (4) Caroline Schulson d. (1) Olivia Lincer 6-4; 6-3
Q- (2) Anna Nguyen d. (5) Mariana Shulman 6-2; 6-2
PL-S- (5) Mariana Shulman d. Caroline Stuhlfaut 6-3; 6-1
PL-S- (7) Mallika Chari d. (8) Olivia Chen 6-2; 6-1
PL-F- (5) Mariana Shulman d. (7) Mallika Chari 6-0; 6-2
PL- (1) Olivia Lincer d. (2) Anna Nguyen 6-4; 6-0