Sports

George Mason High Boys Cruise to State Tennis Title

tenniswithtrophyGeorge Mason High School’s boys’ tennis team was marching relentlessly toward a Virginia Group A state championship Saturday afternoon when matters were suddenly brought to a close and the title was achieved by the withdrawal of one opposing Radford High’s top players.

 

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THE MUSTANGS POSE with their state trophy after defeating Radford in the title game last Saturday. (Courtesy Photo)

 

George Mason High School’s boys’ tennis team was marching relentlessly toward a Virginia Group A state championship Saturday afternoon when matters were suddenly brought to a close and the title was achieved by the withdrawal of one opposing Radford High’s top players.

Mason’s top doubles team of sophomore Kan Tagami and junior Jay Rodock had won its first set, 6-2, and was leading in the second, 1-0, when Radford retired due to an injury to one of its players. That clinched it.

An ongoing singles match matching Mason senior Miles Butler against his Radford opponent was suddenly halted, and the entire Mason team spontaneously gathered in a circle-hug and began hopping up and down. The team score was a resounding 5-1.

The Mason girls’ team, on the other hand, fell to Gate City in the semifinals, 5-0. The girls’ Kelsey Kane lost in the individual singles semifinals and Mason’s individual doubles team of Kane and Claire Sedmak lost in the finals.

The Mason boys’ championship singles victories went to Tagami (3-6, 6-1, 7-5), junior Sam Waters (6-4, 6-1), Rodock (6-1, 6-1), senior Eric Germond (7-6 (7-1), 6-1), and the Tagami-Rodock doubles win was the fifth overall victory. Only freshman Tommy Weber lost (4-6, 5-7) and Butler’s incomplete match (6-7 (7-9), 6-5) was not counted in the score.

For Tagami, Saturday’s decisive win was sweet revenge for losing to the same opponent, Radford’s Jeff Brooks in the individual singles semifinals on Thursday. Tagami lost that individual singles match, 6-1, 6-0, but showed a changed strategy and greater patience in vanquishing Brooks in three sets in the team competition only two days later.

After Mason’s 5-0 win over John Battle in the semifinals, Saturday’s championship team match was moved due to the weather from outdoor Radford University courts to indoor Virginia Tech courts in Blacksburg about 20 miles away. It started three hours later than originally scheduled at the indoor courts, which were reported as musty and hot, but that did not deter the Mustangs.

As the match got underway, team captain Rodock set the tone and eased nerves with a brisk 6-1, 6-1 win, putting the boys up 1-0.  Waters then polished off his opponent, 6-4, 6-1, to make it 2-0. Tagami fell behind 3-6, then changed tactics and charged back doggedly for a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win. When Gemond came up big in a first set tiebreaker and cruised in his second set to win 7-6 (7-1), 6-1, the Mustangs owned a 4-0 advantage.

Plenty of nail biting ensued, however. As Weber and Butler fought valiantly in their singles matches, Rodock and Tagami began doubles play.  Weber gave it his all but was outlasted, ;eaving the team up 4-1.  Butler, down 4-6, 5-6, was struggling to get to a tiebreak in the second set.  But Rodock and Tagami dominated their first set 6-2, then broke service to go up 1-0 in the second when one of the opponents succumbed to a nagging rib injury and retired, setting off the wild Mason celebration.

This is the first state title for Matt Sowers as head coach and Will Snyder as assistant coach, and they pulled it off with a very young team. Only Rodock and Waters had even played in a varsity match before this season, and only two players will not be back next year.  The top three, and five of the top seven, will all be back.

After the finals match, a Radford team official praised the Mustangs, calling them the nicest, most courteous and respectful team Radford had played all season.

The other two Mustang doubles teams of Gemond/Weber and Waters/Daniel Fletcher saw no action during the tournament due to the early match clinches. Other members of the championship team include Tyler Waters, Andrew Lee, Jonathan Babbington, Llewelyn Howell, David McAlpin, Santiago Villalon and Anuraag Sensharma.

 

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