Sports

Blue Devils Shut Gate on Mason’s Tennis State Championship Hopes

RADFORD, Va. — Even with superhuman efforts throughout George Mason High School’s boys tennis roster, it simply wasn’t enough to dethrone the kings.

Gate City High School, the defending group A boys tennis team champions, eked out a 5-2 win over Mason in the finals on Friday.

RADFORD, Va. — Even with superhuman efforts throughout George Mason High School’s boys tennis roster, it simply wasn’t enough to dethrone the kings.

Gate City High School, the defending group A boys tennis team champions, eked out a 5-2 win over Mason in the finals on Friday.

“I’m proud of my players,” Mason coach Matt Sowers said. “The message is basically that we’re all winners but … we fell under the pressure.”

Two Mustang singles players went into three sets, both of whom eventually lost, but demonstrated the even level of play on the Radford University courts. One day after defeating Appomattox Regional Governor’s School (ARGS) in the semifinals 5-0, George Mason almost won its fifth state title in six years.

Senior Chad Sheppard and junior Evan DeBoard secured the victory in No. 2 doubles. Sheppard held to push the score up to 3-1 after breaking serve early in the second set, breaking twice more to take a 6-2 win and clinch Gate City’s title.

Junior Tim Goetz rang in first for Mason over senior Dalton Moore 6-1, 6-2 in under an hour. Goetz was rarely challenged in singles play while down in Radford, using an overwhelming forehand smash to subdue his opponent.

Moore, will play at Carson-Newman College next year.

“It’s not about me; it’s about the team. I just tried to go out there and do my thing. I like to be the motivator and scream. We got out here in doubles and I knew we were on a mission,” Moore said.

Mason senior Brian Sham, competing at “about fifty percent” according to his coach due to illness, gutted out a gritty match against Sheppard in the No. 2 slot, eventually falling 6-2, 7-6 (1). Sheppard, who defeated Sham on Thursday in the semifinals of the singles tournament, appeared to slow down after taking the first set with relative ease.

The most intense match of the afternoon came on court three, where Mason senior Johnny Vroom and Gate City senior Jordan Owens traded blows for three sets, with the final knockout punch eventually landed by Owens, 6-7 (5), 6-5, 6-2. Vroom broke to open up the second set, going up 3-0, but was unable to close it out despite having match-point four times when up 5-2.

“I feel that it’s the only thing that I can beat anyone in is conditioning, if I can go three sets with anyone I can beat them,” said Owens, who will play at Chowan College next year on a full scholarship.

Junior Thomas Burnett lost to J.T. McConnell at No. 4 6-1, 6-0, while sophomore Sam Waters, playing Deboard at No. 5 in a match-up dubbed by DeBoard as one with two players who “looked alike and had the same game,” lost 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.

An, playing singles at No. 6, made up for a sluggish match yesterday against ARGS, efficiently dispatching senior Josh Egan 6-2, 6-3, breaking serve to close out the match. However, he and Burnett were less effective in doubles, allowing the Blue Devils to clinch.

“Typically, during a regular season, we give a man of the match awards, and if I were to give the award today, it would’ve went to Chris An hands down,” Sowers said. “He had quick feet, which he typically did not have, and appeared to be carrying his team in doubles.”

Mason had little trouble dispatching ARGS on Friday, downing the Dragons in under two hours. Goetz crushed Ross Oglesby in 30 minutes 6-0, 6-0, while Sham cruised 6-3, 6-1 against Perry Lowder. Burnett, Waters, and An also won in straight sets, none of whom dropped more than three games in any given set.

Vroom, additionally, won his match, although it did not count toward the official standings.

Goetz and Sham fell in the semifinals of the doubles tournament to eventual champions Malik Mubeen and Sanjay Kishore of Radford 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 on Thursday, dropping the tiebreaker and the latter set after the match was moved to Virginia Tech due to rain.

“Pressure was the difference, getting tense,” Goetz said. “We just couldn’t pull through. They’ve played together for several years so they know each other and Brian and I just started playing together this year. Experience was definitely a factor there. They’re better overall at doubles too.”

“It feels great,” added Mubeen, who played with Goetz in a D.C.-based doubles tournament last summer.

Sham had his singles run come to an end on Thursday, falling to Sheppard 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals, after rolling through Bull Run District and Region B play. Thanks to 36 unforced errors against just 13 winners, Sham was unable to overcome a sluggish first set, despite mounting a serious comeback later in the match.

“I just thought that I didn’t get the balls in,” Sham said.

Coach Sowers concluded, “Losing is going to leave a taste in our mouths to challenge us to get back to his moment and work hard throughout the entire off season.”

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