Coach Don Gardner has turned Honeoye’s boys tennis team into a dynasty. The Bulldogs have captured the last three Section 5 Class DD championships.
What makes the run even more impressive is that Gardner has done it with vastly different groups each year. No one returned to the same spot on the singles ladder this year, and Honeoye used different doubles pairings. Gardner is the Daily Messenger’s 2013 Boys Tennis Coach of the Year.
“The first of the three (teams) felt like they were due — they lost a 3-2 championship when we were missing a starter, then we had pretty much everybody back,” the coach said. “The next team had their own personality; they worked so hard, I don’t think any of us realized they were going to be that good. This group had so many good athletes. By the end of the year they just had so much experience.”
The Bulldogs went 9-2 in the regular season and finished second in the Finger Lakes West to Mynderse. Gardner said matches against Finger Lakes teams like Mynderse, Palmyra-Macedon, Marcus Whitman and Naples prepared his team for sectionals.
Honeoye defeated Pavilion in the quarterfinals, 5-0; edged Naples in the semifinals, 3-2; and topped York in the finals, 3-2. It was the third straight year the teams met in the Class DD championship. All the singles matches went to three sets. First singles player Brian Manciocchi, who played third singles last year, clinched the title with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win. Gardner said the sophomore adjusted his game from attacking the net and finishing points quickly, to playing long points and using a variety of spins.
“These types of in-match adjustments were common with all our players,” the coach said. “I’m so proud of every one of them. From the bottom of our ladder to the top, all our kids pushed each other all season long to make our whole team constantly improve.”
Manciocchi went 8-3 in the Finger Lakes at first singles, Ben Cratsley went 10-0 at second singles in his first year of varsity tennis, and Elijah Sacchitella went 8-1 at third singles. The first doubles team of Cody Finster and Kyle Stone went 7-3, and BreAnna Bugbee and Nate Brewer played well at second doubles.
Manciocchi and Cratsley teamed up for the Section 5 doubles tournament and won a Class D title.
“I’ve never witnessed such a rapid development of a player the way Ben Cratsley improved this year,” Gardner said. “He’s obviously an unbelievable athlete, but it’s the competitive fire and attention to detail that sets him apart.”
The Bulldogs will look different next spring with five of the seven starters graduating. The coach said seniors Laura Keech, Brianna Boyers, Billy Miles, Marissa Erickson, Dustin Tagg, Cratsley, Sacchitella, Finster, Stone and Bugbee will be missed for not only their athletic ability, but their character.