DANVERS — It didn’t take long for Mark Anthony Kenney to realize his high school tennis career was over.
"Now, now,” Latin Academy’s No. 1 singles player said when asked if it had sunk in that he lost his No. 1 singles match in the Dragons’ 5-0 quarterfinal loss in the Division 1 North state tournament to St. John’s Prep Tuesday.
“I’m just disappointed, it’s just disappointing.”
Kenney, who will play for Whittier College in Los Angeles in the fall, lost to Chris Toner, a top 10 New England player who will play for the University of Connecticut next year.
“We got a tough draw," said Toner after his 6-1, 6-2 win. "They are a tough team to play in the first round because we are the four seed and they are the five seed. We played them earlier this year and it was definitely tough and we came out and tried to do the same thing today.
“We played them in the past and they’ve always had a strong team and they are especially strong this year. Mark Anthony and Jimmy Ye are really good players, and Ricardel [Bailey], and they have strong doubles teams. It was good to play them in the regular season so we knew what to expect. And we came out with the W.”
St. John’s (13-4) beat Latin Academy (14-6) by a score of 4-1 on May 20. Ye, another senior, got the Dragons' only victory of that match, by beating Niko Limacher.
On Tuesday, Ye, who will play for Holy Cross, played his final high school match at No. 2 singles. He lost, 6-0, 6-2, to junior Dan Cunningham. Ye was suffering from a wrist injury during the match.
“I did my best,” Ye said. “I didn’t want to sit out the match. I just did whatever I could. I wanted to go out strong.”
Ye, who played at Latin Academy for four years, said he will most remember the big victories.
“The wins we had against tough teams,” he said. “Last year against BC High, that was a pretty memorable match. Earlier this year against Brookline High. Just good matches like that.”
Latin Academy also beat Andover and Brookline for the first time in program history this year. Fifth-year coach Andy Crane’s team tied for the best record he’s had at Latin Academy.
“We beat a couple Dual County League teams -- we had never done that during my
tenure -- so this was a very solid team, a very dangerous team on any given day,” Crane said.
“Obviously we got beat by a better team today but this was a really good season.”
In No. 3 singles, Limacher beat Bailey, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
Bailey said Crane taught him to play tennis as part of the Tenacity youth program when he was 9 years old. He said he will likely play at Virginia State next year.
“Andy was there when I first picked up a tennis racket,” Bailey said. “He was the man who helped me further my tennis.”
Latin Academy’s No. 1 doubles team of Ming Lau and Saiful Mahmood lost to Ian Wright and Alec McNiff, 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
“They played a phenomenal first set,” Crane said. “That’s as well as they played all year. I’m really proud of those guys.”
Lau and Mahmood also are seniors.
“They are all going to end up at really great schools,” Crane said of his five seniors. “They are all really good students and I’ve watched them grow up. I couldn’t be happier with them. I really couldn’t.
"One of our top JVs will be a senior [next year] and we've got a bunch of our younger kids. We’re going to have to grow. It will be a different kind of team, but we’ll grow.”
The only junior on the squad, Gar Paul, lost his No. 2 doubles match with freshman Troy Fredericks, 6-0, 6-4, to Jon Shaffer and Sean Nark. Paul said he’s a little nervous about being the only senior on the team next year.
“Obviously I’m really scared but I have the confidence,” he said. “I think I can do some pretty amazing stuff if I put my mind to it. I always felt that I was a singles player more, so I’m really looking forward to singles.”
When asked to impart some advice to Paul, Kenney said: “Keep your head up because it’s going to be tough for you guys. That’s basically it. Keep working hard and try to get better. Just try to be a leader. Lead the team as best you can. Stay positive. Keep your guys positive and your guys will have positive results.”
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