2023 Gazette Boys Tennis Player of the Year: Reilly Fowles, Northampton

By KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer

Published: 07-11-2023 4:16 PM

Reilly Fowles works with wood as a hobby. He’s built a workout bench, tables, shelves and a desk among other projects. The Northampton sophomore peers into life’s corners and crevices that interest him.

The Daily Hampshire Gazette Boys Tennis Player of the Year isn’t a tennis player full time. He golfs as well as anyone in western Massachusetts and swam for the Blue Devils in the winter.

“I do find myself interested in a lot of stuff. Primarily I’d say it’s in sports. I’m always happy to pick up different sports or try out new activities,” Fowles said. “I am curious about everything in life, in general.”

He studied tennis regularly since picking up the game with his family. That translated to improving his serve during and after his freshman season. Fowles regularly stayed after practice to work with Blue Devils coach Ben Lewis on aspects of his game, whether he wasn’t getting a skill or concept or wasn’t confident in deploying it in a match.

“One of the things he does really well is solve the puzzle of who the opponent is on the other side of the net. He has a strong, well-rounded game,” Lewis said. “Over the course of this season he was able to play his game even when he faced opponents who had a bigger serve or who were posing one challenge or another. He’s a steady and clear thinking player.”

Fowles faces the toughest challenges Western Mass. presents on the tennis court regularly playing in the challenging Valley League. Northampton faced the likes of Amherst, Longmeadow, East Longmeadow and Minnechaug on a regular basis and only couldn’t solves the Lancers, the preeminent powerhouse. That meant a gauntlet of the top players in the region several times a week at No. 1 singles.

He didn’t plan on being Northampton’s No. 1 before the season. Fowles figured that honor and burden would go to senior Aidan Metz who played there last year. Metz decided to play doubles with his twin brother Ethan for their final high school season, leaving an opportunity.

“A lot of players on my team are very evenly matched. Going into the season I might have been close to a No. 1, but I think I was more of the No. 2 spot,” Fowles said. “I took over that spot for singles. I’m still not really sure which one of us is better. But it’s not super relevant because we each filled a spot on the team that we wanted to fill.”

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If Fowles didn’t think he was a No. 1 at the start of the season, he became one by the end of it. The Blue Devils’ No. 1 went 10-3 and only lost to Longemadow’s Kevin Liang and Boston Latin’s No. 1 in the state tournament.

“I feel like I improved so much this year. I had to take my game to another level to even be able to compete with players on other teams,” Fowles said. “They’re amazing players. I had to play perfectly to beat them.”

He leaned on both his tennis experience and the mental toughness playing other sports taught him.

“I find the mental side of the sports can overlap a bunch even if the physical sides of the sports don’t. A golf swing and a tennis swing are relatively different from each other, but playing in golf tournaments definitely prepares me for the pressure of playing in tennis matches, the whole mentality of trying to stay positive and always take each shot as a new opportunity,” Fowles said. “I find it’s really useful in golf and in tennis.”

His knack for reading golf courses translated to discerning his opponents’ plans of attack. Fowles improved the precision of his shots throughout the season to help execute his counter offensives.

“That’s one of the things I love about tennis most is being able to strategize around the court. There’s so many different ways you can play a point. If you think about it logically and send them off to a corner and blast it down the line, or take a sharp angle or hit a little drop shot,” Fowles said. “There’s so many options, but it’s also really fun to pick a style that you really want to play at the same time.”

The Blue Devils won their first Western Massachusetts title since 2005, beating rival Amherst 3-2 in the final.

“It took a lot of work and training to get to that level, but to have it pay off and be a part of our team when we went on to win Western Mass., that was an amazing feeling. It felt like all the work me and my teammates put in finally paid off,” Fowles said. “It was a great experience and the atmosphere was competitive but it was also really friendly at the same time.”

FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS

Aidan Cleary, freshman, PVCICS

Reilly Fowles, sophomore, Northampton

Miles Jeffries, sophomore, Amherst

Jacob Han, junior, Frontier

Woojin Kwon, senior, Amherst

Aidan Metz, senior, Northampton

Ethan Metz, senior, Northampton

Teddy Scott, sophomore, PVCICS

James Scott, sophomore, PVCICS

Hugo Shinn, eighth grader, PVCICS

Trevor Weiss, junior, Belchertown

SECOND TEAM ALL-STARS

Oliver Brown, sophomore, Frontier

Clayton English, junior, PVCICS

Jake Gormley, freshman, Belchertown

Cam Kozowka, freshman, Belchertown

Durrell Patrick, sophomore, Northampton

Brayden Reipold, sophomore, Frontier

Derek Ye, seventh grader, PVCICS

Devin Ye, seventh grader, PVCICS

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