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Monday, July 8, 2013
Lobsters open season with win

By Paul Lazdowski
Special to ESPNBoston.com

MANCHESTER, Mass. -- Seeking a third playoff appearance under coach Bud Schultz, the Boston Lobsters opened the 2013 Mylan World TeamTennis season on Sunday evening at home with a 20-18 win over the New York Sportimes.

"It gets us off to a good start," said the Lobsters sole returning player, Eric Butorac. "We have three new players on the team so to come out with a win, get some good chemistry ... we hit the road [on Monday] and hopefully we can come back with some more wins."

While the victory -- the franchise's first ever at the newly constructed Joan Norton Tennis Center at the Manchester Athletic Club -- puts the Lobsters atop the Eastern Conference standings, it is only the first of 14 matches in 17 days.

"We're hopping on a plan [Monday] morning to go to [Springfield, Missouri] and we'll be playing at 7:00 [tomorrow night] in [Springfield]," said fifth-year coach Schultz. "That's why I say, 'I sort of prefer veterans because they know how to get off a plane, go check into a hotel and show up and compete.'"

Aside from doubles specialist Butorac, a Cambridge, Mass. resident who is returning for his fourth season with the Lobsters, the organization has four new players: Jill Craybas, Katalin Marosi and Amir Weintraub, along with the team's marquee competitor, Mark Philippoussis, who will play a limited schedule that did not include the home opener.

Against the Sportimes (0-1), it was Butorac, the squad's de facto captain, who not only provided emotional leadership for newcomers Craybas, Marosi and Weintraub, but also produced stabilizing performances in mixed doubles and men's doubles to help lead the Lobsters to victory.

"I know a lot [of the guys], especially Amir and Jill were really nervous coming out tonight," Butorac said. "They're like, 'So many people.' They felt a lot of pressure. And I said, 'Guys. Come on. Relax. You want to enjoy this. This is why we play tennis: to come and perform in front of a big crowd, have fun and just relax.'"

Despite falling behind 2-0 in men's singles, the evening's first event, to Jesse Witten, Weintraub battled back to capture a 5-4 win.

Though the Sportimes -- behind the women's doubles team of Kveta Peschke and Abby Spears -- rebounded with a 5-2 victory over Craybas and Marosi, the Lobsters' rallied around Butorac's mixed doubles contributions to retake the lead.

Paired with Marosi, the tandem turned a 9-7 deficit into a 12-11 team advantage with a 5-2 victory over the Sportimes' Peschke and Robert Kendrick.

In women's singles, Craybas fell to Spears, 5-3, an outcome which could have been much worse according to Schultz.

Eric Butorac
Eric Butorac is entering his fourth season with the Boston Lobsters.

"What I tell them is, 'Winning or losing, it's that game that maybe you didn't look like you were going to win that you end up winning that makes a difference in the final score,'" Schultz explained. "Even though Jill lost her singles, 5-3, I said, 'You were down 3-1, and you were down 3-1 in that game and came back and won that game to go 3-2. You hold.'

"If she doesn't get that first game, we lose that set 5-1. What she didn't really realize is that those two games were as critical as any two games in the whole match."

Butorac and Weintraub closed out the match in the final game, men's doubles, with a 5-2 victory over Kendrick and Witten, to secure the Lobsters' two-point win.

"We need him to bring the mixed and men's doubles together in a way," Schultz said of Butorac," like [he did] tonight, so that [they are] real strength of ours. He's always been very thoughtful and good at applying tactics. Amir wants to listen to him, and Katalin wants to listen to him. And we need him to take charge in that role. It was everything I expected of him."

For the Lobsters, the past couple days have been a whirlwind. Not only did many of the teammates just meet for the first time on Friday, but they have also only had one practice together and a single team dinner. It is a situation which is bound to change quickly, especially with a jam-packed schedule and a great deal of travel over the next two-and-a-half-weeks.

"We're literally [going to be] with each other 12 hours a day," Schultz said. "As an example we're out of the hotel at 8:00 tomorrow morning, we're on flights together to [Springfield]. We go to the hotel. We check-in and we go straight to the courts and we play a match until 10:00 at night. We're with each other every second of the time, so it's probably not unlike a lot of sports teams.

"[But] winning helps chemistry so tonight was a good start for us."