Playing for more: Class M final wasn't just about winning another title for Berlin's Trevethan

Published on Sunday, 2 June 2019 21:58


MIDDLETOWN - Berlin boys tennis star senior Jon Trevethan could feel the heat rising in the second set of Friday’s Class M state tournament final.

Battling back and forth with Tolland’s Brennan Nick, Trevethan watched a commanding 5-2 lead turn into a pressure-packed 5-4 contest, and even when Trevethan grabbed a 40-15 lead in the potential clinching game, Nick responded and cut the lead to 40-30, pushing Trevethan closer to deuce and a potential tiebreaker.

That’s when Trevethan’s father, Scott Trevethan, pressed his face near the chain-link fence and jolted Trevethan back into focus with one simple sentence.

“This point is for Rex,” Scott said to his son, reminding the senior who he was playing for in his last high school match.

Jon responded by looking briefly to the sky, where he envisioned his former head coach Rex Smith was looking down on him, providing the same guidance he did for Trevethan during his state title run last year, before Smith passed away last November.

After shifting his focus back to the court at Wesleyan University, Trevethan sent over one of his patented vicious serves before eventually claiming the volley and his second straight state title. As Nick inadvertently pounded the ball into the net, Trevethan again looked to the sky, paying tribute once again to the late Smith, who coached the Redcoats for 38 years, and in the mind of the Trevethans, was still coaching Jon through that last game.

“It was everything,” Scott said of the championship moment. “[Jon] had a tough year. It was hard for him. When he looked up before the point and after he won it that was one of the best moments of our lives.”

‘Tough’ isn’t usually a word that arises when describing the high school career of Jon Trevethan. The Roger Williams University commit reached the state final as a sophomore before winning it as a junior, a magical season that included a flawless regular season where he didn’t lose a set. But with each passing dominant win in 2019, including 6-0, 6-0 wins in each of the first three rounds of the state tournament, things felt a little less seamless for the star.

“I think the whole state tournament was tough for him,” Scott said. “I don’t think anything came easy. He played differently, but he was playing for someone other than himself this year.”

Jon wanted his second state title for nobody but his beloved mentor, and was so determined to make it happen that the weight of the self-inflicted pressure was weighing him down as the tournament progressed.

“There was a lot of stress,” Trevethan said. “Ever since Mr. Smith passed, I’ve been thinking about this and thinking about doing this for him. It’s a huge relief for me, to be honest.”

Before the relief, there was painful anticipation for an achievement that wasn’t guaranteed, despite Jon’s dominance of Class M leading into the tournament. In Smith, Jon had a trusted leader who always kept him centered and ready to rise up to meet the season’s biggest moments. With Smith no longer on the sidelines, Jon turned to the other mentor in his life in his father.

“It was difficult,” Scott said. “I know because he told me. He was very adamant, and he’s usually not, about saying ‘Dad, I need you to help me.’”

The father/son bond of Jon and Scott was glaring during Jon’s state semifinals match with Weston’s Grady Tarzian, who Jon beat in the quarterfinals with ease the year before. This time, Tarzian claimed the first set 6-3, giving Jon a look at his first deficit of the tournament. Jon looked to the sidelines after the first set and didn’t see his father. Without Smith or his dad, Jon felt like a piece of his game was missing. So he made sure he got it back.

“He made my wife text me to tell me to get here,” Scott said. “I was so proud of him. He was a different person. I think a lot of it was just realizing when that when you’re playing for someone more than yourself, you really have to work at it. Him and Rex were very close. I just think sometimes, you need someone to be there.”

Scott arrived in the second set, where his son was running out to a 6-3 win before claiming the match in the third set by the same score. Still, the tension lingered until that final volley with Nick in the final match, when Jon had to glance upward to remember what, or rather who, he was playing for.

“I was trying to stay calm,” Jon said. “I heard [Rex] a lot in my head. He was definitely there for me.”

As Jon and Scott shared a hug with another medal dangling from Jon’s neck, the two reminded each other of who the win was really for. Jon carried a burden of responsibility throughout his final season of the Redcoats, but despite the trials, there was no regret. Not when it comes to dedicating a season, and a championship, to the man who helped him get there, even when he was no longer around to see it from ground level.

“At times it was really emotional,” Jon said. “I’m just happy I got through it. This one was definitely for him.”

Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or

Posted in New Britain Herald, Berlin on Sunday, 2 June 2019 21:58. Updated: Sunday, 2 June 2019 22:01.