By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER-- Monday’s home finale against the Springfield Lasers was about as close to a must win match as it gets for the Boston Lobsters.
The Lobsters entered Monday’s match in a three way tie for second place in the Eastern Conference. The top two teams in each conference make the playoffs, with the New York Sportimes and the Philadelphia Freedoms each sporting a record of 4-7. With all three teams playing on Monday night, a win was essential for the Lobsters to control their own destiny for a playoff spot.
Unfortunately for the Lobsters, the Western Conference leading Lasers were on top of their game winning the first four matches of the night en route to a 23-15 win at the Manchester Athletic Club’s Joan Norton Tennis Center.
While the loss certainly hurts the Lobsters’ playoff hopes, they did not lose any ground on Monday as both Philadelphia and New York lost their respective matches, meaning the three teams still remain tied for the final playoff spot with identical 4-8 records with two games remaining on the schedule. The Lobsters hold the tie breaker over the Freedoms, but the Sportimes hold the tie breaker over the Lobsters having won the majority of regular season matches between the two teams.
The Lobsters have two matches remaining in the regular season starting tonight at Philadelphia and finishing up tomorrow at two-time defending champion and Eastern Conference leader Washington. Monday’s results means that today’s showdown at Philadelphia will be the most important match of the season for the Lobsters if they want to qualify for the postseason.
Falling behind early was the theme of Monday’s match for the Lobsters as the Lasers rolled to victory by building comfortable leads early in matches. In taking the first four matches of the evening, the Lasers jumped out to 2-0 leads in three matches while building a 3-1 lead in the other.
A strong start for Springfield’s Rik De Voest turned out to be the difference in his match against Boston’s Amir Weintraub at men’s singles. De Voest took the first six points and first three games of the match building a comfortable lead. But Weintraub would find his groove taking four of the next five games to tie the score at 4-4 and send the match into a tie breaker game. It was in the tie breaker game where De Voest pulled through for the win taking it 5-2 and taking his match 5-4 to start the Lasers off on the right foot.
The Lasers’ WTT top ranked doubles tandems of Alisa Kleybanova and Vania King at women’s doubles and De Voest and Jean-Julian Rojer at men’s doubles each flexed their muscles en route to victory on Monday.
Kleybanova and King steamrolled Boston’s Jill Craybas and Katalin Marosi 5-1 to extend Springfield’s lead to 10-5 on the evening while De Voest and Rojer held off the always game Weintraub and Butorac 5-4. The Lasers opened up a 4-2 lead in men’s doubles, only to see the Lobsters pair charge back to tie things up at four before Springfield won the deciding tie breaker set.
Kleybanova clinched the win for the Lasers with a dominant showing at women’s singles besting Craybas 5-1 and extending Springfield’s lead to 20-10 with just one match remaining.
Butorac and Marosi, the No. 3 ranked mixed doubles tandem in the league, took down the No. 2 ranked mixed doubles tandem of Rojer and King 5-3, but it was too little too late as the Lasers already had the victory well in hand.