Springfield – Lower Merion High School boys’ tennis coach Dave O’Connell has been involved in coaching various sports for over four decades and the Central League singles final between his players Matt Robinson and Matt Chen April 22 was one of the toughest matches he’s had to witness.
Without having an opportunity to coach between sets like he is typically allowed to do, all O’Connell could do was sit and watch while his players battled for nearly two hours before Robinson came away with a well-deserved 6-1, 6-3 win.
“That was the toughest match I ever had to watch,” said O’Connell, who has been involved with the Lower Merion program for 15 years. “It was the first time since I have been at Lower Merion where two Lower Merion players made the Central League singles final. Matt [Robinson] was in a zone and hit all of his shots when he needed them.”
“”It’s an honor winning the Central League title,” said Robinson, who plays No. 3 singles during the year and came into the tournament as the No. 2 seed. “It’s always tough playing a teammate in the final but Matt [Chen] deserved to be there as much as I did.”
“Matt [Robinson] played really well today and just outplayed me,” said Chen, who entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and defending champion. “He’s a good teammate and deserved to win. It’s nice to see how much he’s improved this year and this kind of like passing the torch.”
Following a first round bye, Chen posted straight set wins over Radnor’s Alex Weiss, Conestoga’s Cahlin Pragada and Strath Haven’s Clay Gaieski to reach the final.
Robinson’s title run began with an opening round bye followed by a default before posting straight set wins over Conestoga’s Ahmed Aboseada, Radnor’s Max Safanov and Chen.
By reaching the finals, both Robinson and Chen advance to the district tournament April 28-29 at The Healthplex in Springfield.
Robinson becomes the latest sibling to play for the Aces, joining his other three brothers – Jared (a junior who plays first doubles) and Jordan (a senior co-captain who plays second doubles) followed the path blazed by older brother Larry, who currently plays club tennis for Cornell.