Boys’ Tennis Season Comes to a Close

Water baloons. BO STEAD

The Malden High boys’ tennis does senior night exactly how it is supposed to be done. If you showed up to the courts at Amerige Park on senior night, you would likely have been met with dozens of family and friends supporting the seniors, an entire table full of food and drinks, colorful posters lining the fence honoring the seniors and hundreds, if not thousands, of water balloons.

Before the matches, senior and co-captain Naveen Nemalapuri announced the lineups for the Malden team, while Somerville’s captain did the same. After this, the seniors were met with flowers and pictures to remember their special night and later, a massive water balloon fight.

The team this year has boasted a record of 12-3, winning the GBL and also earning a spot in the state tournament. 

Sophomore Satvir Singh noted, “From last year to this year there has been a big improvement. We lost to Sommerville last year and today we are beating them. I think everyone really grinded in the offseason.”

Assistant Coach Brian Sou would agree with Singh’s remarks as he expressed, “There have been captain’s practices since March. They play everyday no matter what the weather is. The community and the ‘bromance’ is really there.”

Fellow Coach Mark Gagnon also made some similar comments, stating, “Right from the beginning, Naveen and Palgon had the team working and set the tone for the team. This got us ahead of the game when we started because they were all in shape.” 

(Left to right) Seniors Palgon Tsering, Henry Zhao, Naveen Nemalapuri, Wilson Jiang, Edmond Chen, Alexander Joon, and David Flores pose for photo with Coaches Brain Sou and Mark Gagnon. BO STEAD

No matter what sport it is for, the ceremonies of senior night are usually bittersweet. While it is nice to see your fellow teammates moving on and having completed high school, it is sad to see your friends and captains leave forever.

One of the seniors who was honored, Wilson Jiang, said, “Senior night for me is telling me that I am about to move on and it’s time for the Juniors to take over the team.” Wilson is a second year player, and he remarked, “Having Naveen, Palgon, Coach Brian and Coach Gagnon has helped me improve and play so well.”

Co-captain Palgon Tsering stated, “Senior night is a big team bonding experience really for everyone.”

Gagnon observed, “Naveen and Palgon complimented each other so well. Palgon is the quiet leader and leads by example and Naveen is a little more vocal. I am so lucky to have these seniors; they are great people to have around.”

While Jiang is not a captain, he still received recognition from his head coach. Gagnon stated “We are going to miss Wilson a lot; he has so much energy and he is always lighting up the room and cracking kids up when things get a little too serious, which is needed on any team.” 

Nemalapuri remarked, “Senior night means everything for me; six years on the team and this is the last dance.”

Sou also added, “I am going to miss these seniors so much; I have a personal relationship with each one of them. It has been a privilege to walk alongside them.”

This is a special group of seniors: even on their own senior night, they were still helping people out on the court and helping set things up.

Fans cheering for the boys. BO STEAD

While tennis is a bit of a different team dynamic than most because it is an individual sport, with the exception of doubles, it is important to note that chemistry is important on any sort of team. On a tennis team, the chemistry becomes your support system when it is just you on the court.

Wilson Jiang noted, “If you compare other tennis teams to ours, you may think we are silly, goofy and loud, but we have the best atmosphere because we always challenge each other, and we always encourage each other. I think it comes from being so close outside of school and hanging out with each other.”

What is so special about a team having good chemistry is that a really bonded group is so rare and so hard to come by because it truly takes every single part of the team to totally bond.

Gagnon commented, “As a coach changing the culture of a team can be very difficult, the work ethic has picked up so much, the past three or four years we have been second or third in the GBL and I know our captains remembered that.”

Team captains are a huge part of building the chemistry of a team as they have to be able to be kind to their teammates while also being a leader and having authority over them. Captains really are just as important as coaches because they are extensions of a coaching staff.

Jiang said, “We have two great captains: Palgon is always very logical and Naveen is just the best at tennis.”

Wilson Jiang preparing to serve. BO STEAD

Sou recognized the captains for helping him become welcome to the team and the job. He added, “Naveen and Palgon have helped me learn how to be a better coach, especially to freshmen and sophomores, by teaching them proper technique, but also helping them be their own players.”

Ironically, Gagnon has a similar feeling about Sou as he claimed “I have leaned on Assistant Coach Brian Sou; he has been a huge help this whole year, bringing him on board has allowed me to not worry about managing stuff as much and concentrate more on the tennis aspect.” 

One of the captains himself, Nemalapuri strongly believes him and his fellow captain did well improving the team from their position. Nemalapuri said, “I think me and Palgon as captains have done a good job upping the intensity and keeping the team disciplined.”

As said earlier, coaches are such an important and often overlooked part of a team as they have the power to control the mood of the team and of course the actual production on the court. Luckily, Malden High has been gifted with two coaches who have their team’s approval.

Jiang said “Coach Gagnon and Coach Brian are the best coaches we could have asked for, Gagnon always unites the team and Coach Brian played tennis himself and is a great mentor.” 

Another thing that is so unique about highschool coaches is they often work in the school you play for. This means you might spend a massive amount of your time with them, day in and day out. Jiang stated “We always hang out in Coach Brian’s room during lunch because we love him so much.”

There is a delicate balance for coaches to give a certain amount of power to captains; Palgon Tsering noted that the “coaches did great. They gave me and Naveen a lot of control as captains because they began to trust us over the years.”

Naveen Nemalapuri described the team as this: “We are not a team, we are a family. We love each other on and off the court and it’s a great supportive atmosphere.”

Gagnon concluded his thoughts on the team this year by saying, “They really put that extra work in and it showed, It’s been fun seeing them work so hard. These kids have kept their eyes on the prize all year and I think that’s why we are GBL champs.”

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