We were seduced by the relaxing nature of this sport. The other joined the team “as a joke”.
Whatever their reasons for choosing tennis racquets, Skaneateles’ boys program is better off having Hatcher Gutchess and Marcus McClanahan.
A dominating duo in the spring 2022 season, Gutchess and McClanahan weren’t an immediate match when they each joined the varsity team as freshmen.
Gutchess was a doubles player from day one, while McClanahan operated primarily as a singles player. And each has had success – Gutchess, along with partner Andrew Neumann, won the first Section III Class C-1 doubles title last spring; while McClanahan won the third singles title in the same ranking.
With Neumann’s graduation, Gutchess needed a first doubles partner. And McClanahan was looking for tougher competition, but Skaneateles already had a first singles player in Max Karpinski.
The pieces of the puzzle are finally holding together. McClanahan said the chemistry was instantaneous and helped by the couple’s longtime friendship. He quickly got into the doubles game.
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“It’s a lot less common and I’m a lot less sweaty after games, which is quite nice,” he said. “But it’s fun because you have someone you share that experience with and not just yourself, especially when it’s a real friend outside of tennis.”
Right from the start, expectations were high. Gutchess and McClanahan were hoping for an undefeated season, winning the first Section III doubles title and reaching the New York State tournament.
These goals were not far-fetched. The duo went 8-1 together during the regular season, losing just one game, to Fayetteville-Manlius’ Jaden Duggal and Davin Woolridge. In those nine outings, Gutchess and McClanahan dropped just four sets and outscored their opponents 119-66.
That regular-season success warranted the top seed and a first-round bye in the C-1 Class Section tournament. The Lakers’ best couple came through their semifinal game against Holland Patent’s Christopher Kelly and Dylan McGuire 6-0, 6-3.
In the final, Gutchess and McClanahan faced Andrew Falso and Gabriel Reagan of Cazenovia. The Lakers won the first set 6-3, but suffered a slight setback in the second when a run was taken out due to a noise violation.
“Throughout the year we would go to the net and use voice comms. A lot of other doubles teams use hand signals because you’re supposed to be quiet on the court,” Gutchess said. “We lost a point and had to be silent the rest of the game. (It was an adjustment), especially in the middle of the game.”
“The second set was a little tighter,” McClanahan said. “Going against Caz in sections, in any sport, always gets a little choppy.”
Gutchess and McClanahan adjusted and fought their way to match point. In front of 6-5, Gutchess served and then played the return. Caz then attempted a net bunt to McClanahan, who greeted it with a backhand that split the Caz duo to clinch the title.
With their Section Championship, the team earned a spot at Section III State Qualifiers in Utica a few days later. The duo trained every day except for one that was marred by rain, and even met up at 5am on competition day for a last-minute workout and “a little tennis at sunrise”.
Against the best of Section III in all rankings, the first match was a breeze. Gutchess and McClanahan swept Zachary Murphy and Lucian Thompson of Sauquoit Valley to reach the quarterfinals.
In the next game, the Jamesville-DeWitt pair of Mark Bratslavsky and Luke Cantone – the eventual state qualifier champion – conceded just one game to the Lakers duo.
“I think we were pretty confident,” Gutchess said. “We were there to compete. JD was a great team. We weren’t used to the higher level of tennis they were bringing, and we were cut.”
“It’s good to hear you lost to the people who won it all,” McClanahan said. “Hatcher and I dominated the game before that. We were playing good tennis. We went as far as we could and we’re proud of what we did.”
While each hopes to continue their college tennis career as a club player, it won’t be together. Gutchess has been accepted to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, while McClanahan will also be heading to the Sunshine State to attend the University of Miami.
As they say goodbye to Skaneateles, each is proud of their contribution to the tennis program and the school in general.
“It was really cool to see us progressing in tennis and getting more serious about winning championships,” Gutchess said. “It was cool to see the Skaneateles program start to flourish.”
Says McClanahan, “It brings me a lot of pride to be able to say that I have contributed to Skaneateles’ sports legacy. This year I think the school won nine section titles in total. It’s great to be a part of that and to encourage the younger generation to continue to be dominant in the sport.”
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: Marcus McClanahan, Skaneateles
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: Hatcher Gutchess, Skaneateles
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: Michael Clark, Auburn
Spring 2022 Tennis All-Stars: Riley Fitzgerald, Auburn
Spring 2022 Tennis All-Stars: Collin Park, Union Springs
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: George Fearon, Union Springs
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: Max Karpinski, Skaneateles
Spring 2022 Tennis Stars: Aiden Saville, Southern Cayuga
Sportswriter Justin Ritzel can be reached at 282-2257 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @CitizenRitz.