Barrington beats La Salle in 2024 RIIL Boys Tennis State Championship match


PAWTUCKET – Just before the lights went out at Slater Park, Barrington's Garrett Meehan and Justin Kuo ended La Salle's three-year title streak.

The Eagles and Rams met for the third consecutive year in the RIIL state championship game, but no extra motivation to win was needed. Undefeated Barrington knew it wasn't going to be easy to stay that way, and although things looked good for a short time, the Eagles had to wait until Kuo and Meehan put the finishing touches on their play at No. 3 doubles to secure the 4-2 victory and the state title.

“I'm absolutely thrilled,” Meehan said. “A prime-time game under the lights, there's no better place to compete at key moments, especially against the second-best team in the state.”

“Both sides played a really great game, but I'm glad we won.”

“We've had a grudge against this team for the last few years,” said Barrington senior Vineet Abbineni. “…It was kind of an intense rivalry. The tension was high, the stakes were high, and in the end, we got it done.”

“It feels great. I won my senior year, my last year, so it's honestly all I could ask for.”

Barrington beat La Salle twice during the regular season, but the scores of 6-1 and 5-2 were a major disappointment. Every game at every position in the standings was close, and the Eagles expected it to be the same on Saturday.

The difference was in the doubles. Barrington's No. 1 doubles team of Gabe Anderson and Bryce Kupperman are two-time doubles state champions and played accordingly, taking the first point of the match for the Eagles. The No. 2 team of Henry Birbiglia and Zac Spear were up next after their straight-set victories.

“I know these guys. There's not a big drop in performance from one to three,” Abbineni said. “They're all excellent players. Honestly, it helped my mental game.”

Abbineni didn't need much help. The senior was a crucial player at position 4 all season, a spot the Eagles could count on in every single game.

The left-hander with the smooth swing was great in his first set but fell behind in the second. Abbineni didn't panic about the potential of a third set – he just went out and played, turned things around and took the third point of the night.

“I've been playing for a while, so I know my strengths and weaknesses,” Abbineni said. “I wanted to use my forehand, hit some nice winners and improve when I could.”

Barrington won the first sets at Nos. 1 and 2 singles and No. 3 doubles. La Salle's Joey Cavanagh quickly earned the Rams' first point with his win at No. 3, setting the stage for a comeback that saw Andrew Smith and Dyllon Litmanovich force a third set at the top two singles and Ryan Coffey and Ryan Souza force a third set at No. 3 doubles.

“I felt his momentum,” Litmanovich said of Cavanagh's victory, which he followed with a three-set win. “The crowd was behind Andrew, Joe and me and I felt like we had a chance.”

All eyes were on Smith and Barrington No. 1 Luke Sapolsky – both semifinalists in the RIIL State Singles Tournament – ​​as the duo threw row after row of whirlwinds in one of the best matches the state tournament has ever seen.

A smaller crowd gathered to watch No. 3, where Kuo and Meehan recovered from their second set. The match was tied 2-2, but the Barrington duo quickly won three games in a row and put themselves in a position to close things out.

Kuo earned the honor by hammering the ball down the court to secure the three-set victory and the state championship.

“I knew we were last and we had to win this game,” Kuo said. “When the last ball came, I just hit it and knew we had won.”

“I probably screamed the loudest I've ever screamed in my life,” said Meehan. “Then I almost knocked over my partner here. It was an overwhelming feeling of happiness.”

La Salle was disappointed with the result, but not exactly upset with what was on the field. The Rams were underdogs entering the game, knew what had to happen to end Barrington's undefeated season, and nearly did it.

“I knew the game was going to be 50-50,” said Litmanovich, one of four seniors in La Salle's lineup. “Honestly, we play them next week and we win — or they win. It's always going to be 50-50.”

Barrington's team surrounded Kuo and Meehan in celebration. Barrington coach Story Salit fought back tears as he had a quiet moment alone with the state championship trophy just before presenting the trophy to his team.

And just as the awards ceremony was about to begin, the lights in Slater Park, controlled by an automatic timer, went out. The ceremony was completed in the dark, illuminated by the light of a cell phone, a television camera and some spotlights in the area.

Since it was too dark to take a team photo on the field, the Eagles went to the parking lot, posed for photos and watered Salit with every water bottle they had.

“It's definitely very sweet,” said Abbineni. “This is how I wanted to end my season and I couldn't ask for anything more today.”

SINGLES: 2, Dyllon Litmanovich, LSA, defeated Charlie Martin, B, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4; 3, Joey Cavanagh, LSA, defeated Jeremy Kuo, B, 6-4, 6-4; 4, Vineet Abbineni, B, defeated Zach Perullo, LSA, 6-1, 7-5.

DOUBLES: 1, Gabe Anderson/Bryce Kupperman, LSA, defeated Yash Choudhary/Max Wallace, LSA, 6-0, 6-3; 2, Henry Birbiglia/Zac Spear, B, defeated Callum Bixby/Luke Cavanagh, LSA, 6-4, 6-4; Justin Kuo/Garrett Meehan, B, defeated Andrew D'Artista/Ryan Coffey, LSA, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.

INTERRUPTED MATCH: 1, Luke Sapolsky, B, vs. Andrew Smith, LSA.