“From there, it was out in front of everybody and we started paying attention,” Kirby said.
The streak continued with another 16-0 showing in ’19 before COVID wiped out the 2020 season entirely. Last year’s Raiders team kept it going with a 14-0 record, which brought the streak to 93 and inspired Kirby to rekindle the T-shirt idea.
“Last year at the end-of-the-season banquet, coach Kirby had these shirts [that] said, ‘From 2014 to 2021, 93 straight regular season wins,’ “said Robert Ozerdem, a senior co-captain and second singles player. “We were like, ‘OK, next year is the year. We’re going to get to 100. ‘”
DS finally achieved the coveted milestone of 100 straight regular-season victories with ease Friday afternoon with a 5-0 win at Uxbridge. As happy as Kirby was to reach 100, he said the achievement doesn’t mark the end of the line for the Raiders (7-0).
“It’s never once happened to me that it’s complete,” Kirby said. “I think we just keep going. It’s been a tradition for us and it’s been the way things have gone, so why would I think things would stop? One hundred is fun, that’s cool, but let’s keep it going. “
The coach views the 100 wins as a result of the program’s annual consistency.
“The connection to those other teams is not lost on me,” Kirby said. “Thinking back to all the captains and all of the kids that have played during those last six years who were all contributors to this, that’s probably the coolest part of it – it started a long time ago.”
Ask Kirby how a team can maintain such a high level of success and he’ll tell you the Raiders have had the good fortune of building from the top with stellar first singles players. The streak began when Max Schuermannthe current captain of Colby’s men’s team, joined as a freshman.
“With Max as our No. 1, one-third of our problem as far as winning was taken care of because you only need three points to win and Max was knocking down one of them every match, ”Kirby said. “As a junior, he was the state finalist in the individual tournament and then as a senior he won it. He’d go entire seasons and not lose at No. 1. ”
After Schuermann graduated in 2018, then-sophomore Danny Pomahac took over at first singles and powered the team. He was named the Tri-Valley League Small Division’s Most Valuable Player as a sophomore and again as a senior last spring.
“Max basically handed the baton off to Danny – that’s the kind of fortune that we’ve had,” said Kirby, who added he believed Ozerdem would take the baton and jump from second singles to first singles this season had it not been for Daniel Greenea freshman phenom who has anchored this year’s team in the top spot.
“He’s one of the best players in Eastern Mass. as a freshman. He’s going to be unbelievable, ”Kirby said of Greene, whose only loss of the season came against Walpole senior Sid Vandrangi.
As much as Kirby acknowledges the impact his former and current standout players have had, he’s always tried to emphasize the dynamic team.
“I’m very cognizant of keeping the entire roster involved,” Kirby said. “I really try to focus on the team. I want everyone involved, I want everyone in, and I want to make it fun – that’s a big deal to me. “
Kirby has coached a lot of great DS athletes, both with the tennis team and boys’ golf, which captured the Division 3 state title in the fall. He downplays his role in the 100 straight victories, though his players credit him for being the engine that keeps the car running.
“Kirby plays a major role,” he said Cole Hadar, a senior co-captain and third singles player. “He doesn’t play too much tennis – I know he has – but he knows how to coach a team and run a program.”
Ozerdem agreed, adding that Kirby does a great job of rehashing the expectations for the program each year.
“One thing that’s underrated is Kirby lets everyone know at the beginning of the season this is a no BS team and we’re serious and we’re always going for a state title,” Ozerdem said. “So, everyone comes prepared, ready to go and ready to fight.”
DS has been a mainstay in the Division 3 state tournament throughout the win streak. Five of the past six Raiders teams captured sectional titles, the lone exception being the 2019 squad, which suffered a 3-2 loss to Martha’s Vineyard in the Division 3 South final.
Following a 2015 loss to Bedford in the Division 3 state semifinal, the 2016 team bounced back and advanced to the state final, where the Raiders fell to Whitinsville Christian, 3-2.
And then there’s Weston. No team has been a bigger pain in the Raiders’ side during its era of excellence than the Wildcats.
DS hoisted South titles in ’17, ’18 and ’21 only to fall to North champion Weston in the state semifinals. The Wildcats went on to win state titles in each of those three seasons.
“Now I don’t have to worry about them,” Kirby said, referring to the MIAA’s new state tournament realignment, which keeps DS in Division 3 and drops Weston to Division 4.
Kirby cited Wayland and Bedford, two programs that moved to Division 3 this year after competing in Division 2 last spring, among new programs the Raiders will have to worry about.
Regardless of the competition, the DS seniors are determined to win the program’s first state title.
“We’re going to try to get Kirby a state championship this year,” Hadar said. “We wanted to get the 100th and then keep it running.”
▪ Winchester sophomore Amy Lyon needed to pass an ultimate test of endurance to defeat Watertown’s Eva Kelleher in a first singles matchup during Thursday’s Middlesex League contest.
Lyon earned a 6-8, 6-3, 10-5 victory, clinching the match with a rare 10-point tiebreaker to help Brookline (10-1) earn a 5-0 win.
“Amy is our most physically fit player and it paid off in this match,” Brookline coach said Greg Lowder said. “Eva was doing a great job bringing Amy into the net and Amy wasn’t doing a good enough job attacking in the first set, so Eva was able to float a lot of balls up over Amy.
“She was able to settle down a little in the second set and move Eva around and that created easier opportunities to find the open court as the match went on.”
▪ Two-time defending Division 2 boys’ state champion Concord-Carlisle had the benefit of not only returning seven seniors, but also adding Lucas Bikkesbakkera standout sophomore who has occupied the first singles post for the Patriots (6-0) this spring.
“He’s a super energetic tennis player,” said Concord-Carlisle coach Alex Spence said of Bikkesbakker. “He’s really quick and kind of snaps the ball deep. He’s really aggressive in his style. I think he and Ben Grace are really close, so that gives us a lot of depth in the singles. “
Grace, a returning All-Scholastic, has played second singles, while senior Alex Li has been third. Spence said seniors Andrew Meyer and Chris Li have performed well at first doubles alongside senior Josh Zhang and junior Webb Constablewho have partnered frequently at second doubles.