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Avon continues tradition of excellence with 3rd straight state title

Tennis graphicOn paper or from a distance, winning may look easy. But it seldom is.

The Avon High boys tennis team has established a tradition of excellence over the past three years. They haven’t lost a dual meet match since 2010, winning 53 in a row. This spring, the Falcons captured the NCCC championship for the third consecutive season.

Avon also added another state championship to its collection. The Falcons won their third straight Class M state championship but it was a battle that required victories from nearly every member of the team. The Falcons outlasted Guilford, 20-18 – the closest tournament in Avon’s three-year run. Avon won by eight over Joel Barlow a year ago and beat Stonington by six in 2011.

“It was a nailbiter this year,” Avon coach Ben Lukowicz said. “It came right down to the wire.”

Three of Avon’s four singles players won three matches and advanced to the quarterfinal round. In doubles, the No. 3 team of Gabe Levin and Andre Wang won two matches while the No. 2 team of Michael Arciero and Alex Saslow won a match.

The doubles team of Eric and Evan Selzer won five matches before losing in the championship final to Tolland’s Andrew Schadt and Dan Gadoury, 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.

“It definitely a team effort for us this year,” Lukowicz said.

Senior Sam Aronson, who played at No. 1 singles, had to retire in the quarterfinals after cramping. The tournament was played on a weekend in early June when the temperatures and humidity soared into the 90s. The loss by Aronson, who had made it to the finals as a junior, put pressure on his teammates to earn additional points.

Aronson, who was seeded No. 2 in singles, dropped only one game in his first three victories before retiring in a quarterfinal loss to No. 7 Evan Powell of Gulford, 4-6, 4-1, retired.

The Selzer brothers were impressive in the tournament. They didn’t drop a game in their first three matches, winning each by margins of 6-0, 6-0. They dropped just one game in a 6-1, 6-0 win in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Stephen Dreznick and Grayson Kearney of Joel Barlow won a few games but they still lost, 6-2, 6-3.

“They’re very consistent,” Lukowicz said of the Selzer brothers. “They play well together. They really rely on each other and trust each other.”

In singles, Avon’s Sam Flaxman was seeded eighth. He won his first two matches before rallying for a thrilling win over Jim Keiler of Platt High in the third round. Keiler won the opening set 6-4 before Flaxman won in the second set, 6-2. In the decisive third set, Flaxman prevailed, 10-4.

Flaxman’s tournament ended with a 6-0, 6-0 loss to eventual champion and top seeded Bradley Orban of Foran-Milford. Flaxman, who earned All-State honors in singles in 2011, lost to the eventual state champion all four years in the tournament. He was eliminated by Orban in each of the last three seasons.

Avon’s John Burdick won his first three bouts and dropped just one game in that stretch. But in the quarterfinals, No.6 Burdick lost to No. 3 Dan Rombala of Berlin, 6-2,4-6, 7-5. Rombala lost to Orban in the Class M final.

Avon (18-0, 14-0 NCCC) rolled through regular season dropping just three individual matches in NCCC matches. The Falcons also prevailed in non-league victories over Hall, 6-1, Guilford, 5-2, Farmington, 7-0, and Simsbury, 6-1. Wins over Guilford, Farmington and Simsbury came in the final week of the regular season.

There were just four seniors in the starting lineup at the state tournament – Flaxman and Aronson in singles and Saslow and Evan Selzer in doubles.

Eric Selzer, Arciero, Levin and Wang are sophomores in doubles while Burdick and Riley Van Dusen at No. 4 singles are juniors.

“Every year is a challenge,” Lukowicz said. “It’s just as exciting (to win the state title as in previous years). It never gets old. You never know what is going to happen.”

The NCCC Tournament for boys was cancelled due to the rain.

Several players on the team earned All-NCCC honors. Aronson, Burdick, Flaxman, Riley Van Dusen and Evan Selzer were named to the all-league squad. The Selzer brothers earned All-State honors by finishing second in the Class M tournament.

NOTE: It was the fifth state championship in the team’s history. The Falcons won Class S championships in 1986 and 1994.

 

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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