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Canton has hopes of challenging for tournament titles

Tennis graphicCANTON – In eight of its first 10 matches of the season, the Canton High boys tennis team lost just seven individual matches. In those eight matches, the Warriors were undefeated to earn a berth in the CIAC Class S tournament for the second straight year.

However, in the other two matches, the Warriors were paired up with Avon, the two-time defending Class M champions – a veteran team that hasn’t lost a NCCC match since 2010.

Canton coach Dante Boffi won’t let a pair of defeats to the Falcons derail the hopes of his squad, which has put together the most successful boys tennis campaign at Canton since the beginning of the century.

“We know what we’re capable of. You can’t be content,” Boffi said. “The guys want to do well in states. We might be winning matches but let’s understand there are always two or three things we can be working on.”

Avon is the overwhelming favorite to win another NCCC Tournament next week at Avon Old Farms. But Boffi likes his team’s competitive spirit. And he is looking forward to seeing what Canton can do in the Class S tournament.

“Do we have a shot (at the state title)? Absolutely, we do,” Boffi said. “You have to set goals to aspire to. It’s not a fairy tale. We have the fortitude.”

It’s not unheard of, either. Canton won a Class S title in 1998 and there was a three-year span from 1998 to 2000 when Canton finished in the top three in Class S each season.

This year’s Canton (9-2, 9-2 NCCC) team will have to deal with defending champion Weston, East Catholic, Northwest Catholic and Granby, which has defending Class S singles champion Chandler Libby.

The Warriors won’t challenge for a state title with one or two players making it to the finals or semifinals. It will need to be a team effort, earning points in the early rounds of the tournament.

“What makes our team so strong is that we have no question marks,” Boffi said. “We’re solid up and down the lineup. We don’t have the pure tennis players. Most of our guys play multiple sports. And you get good chemistry and it helps out a lot.”

Senior Peter Jutras is at No. 1 singles with senior Ben Corbett at No. 2 and junior Eric Scott at No. 3. Senior Alex Boon Von Ostad, who has been slowed by a sore back, is at No. 4 but he was good enough to play at No. 2 single a year ago.

In doubles, junior Ben Coleman and sophomore Rich Hefler are the top doubles team with seniors Nate Gallagher and Dan Edgren at No. 2. In the third spot are sophomore Jon Smith and first-year senior Ryan Soifer, who have put together a 10-1 season including a win over an Avon team earlier this month.

“We have some very competitive players,” Boffi said. “Some of our best competition is among ourselves and it is how we’ve gotten better.”

Jutras is clearly the best player on the team but he isn’t off at a private club tuning up his game only to show up at matches. He is with his teammates every day in the wind and sun at Mills Pond Park. And his teammates aren’t shy about challenging him on the court. “They all want to play him,” Boffi said. “They don’t win very often but it makes them better.”

Corbett isn’t your traditional tennis player but plays with a high energy and intensity. Scott is one of the team’s best athletes and continues the Scott legacy on the team. His older brother, Nate, played four years for the Warriors.

Coleman and Hefler have been solid and consistent all season and the team of Gallagher and Edgren are seeing the benefits of their off-season work this spring.

The regular season is scheduled to end this week and the Warriors will likely finish with its best record since going 12-2 in 2000 before tuning up for the league tournament on May 23 and the Class S tournament two days later.

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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