Wootton boys’ tennis Coach Nia Cresham knew coming into this spring that the quest for a fourth straight Montgomery County title would be daunting. So for as much as she and her players hated to see their win streak of 57 straight regular season matches halted last week against Churchill, Creshman called it a necessary “wake-up call” entering Friday’s county championships at Blake.
The Patriots’ pursuit of redemption and Churchill’s bid for an upset came to a head in the decisive No. 2 doubles contest. With every eye watching and both sides trading cheers, Wootton’s Jonathan Lee and Abhishek Patwardhan rallied in the third-set tiebreaker to beat Churchill’s Alex Paper and Neil Shanani and secure the four-peat by giving the Patriots 23 points to 22 for the Bulldogs.
“This one is special because we came in with a different motivation,” said Lee, whose strong volleys at the net helped him and Patwardhan win, 4-6, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4). “On one hand, it was about maintaining our streak of championships and on the other hand, it was all about redemption after losing last week.”
Wootton’s Titas Bera admitted to feeling a bit of that pressure during his No. 2 singles match with Churchill’s Kevin Chen. Not only did the Bulldogs hold a two-point advantage entering Friday’s championship round, but they earned key points at No. 1 singles on a default win by William Szamosszegi. (With weather postponing the matches on Wednesday, Poolesville’s Dennis Wang was forced to withdraw Friday due to an out-of-town trip.)
“With all the stuff about us losing to Churchill and today’s matches being so close, I was a little nervous in the beginning and it took a while for me to get rolling,” Bera said. “I just tried to stay consistent and get the win for our team.”
Using an aggressive approach and strong shots down the line, Bera secured his third straight county singles title by beating Chen, 6-3, 6-2.
But the Patriots would see their slight lead vanish following a lengthy No. 3 singles contest between Churchill’s Michael Gauch and Wootton’s Gabriel Fan. Both endured several long rallies and displayed consistent forehands until Gauch pulled out a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
In turn, Wootton rested its hopes on Patwardhan and Lee, who played under similar circumstances two years ago against Churchill. As was the case in 2011, Lee finished on the winning end of a nearly three-hour match to continue the Patriots’ county dynasty.
In the day’s other matches, Blair’s Rahul Bhale beat Whitman’s Nathaniel Sherman, 6-0, 6-2, in No. 4 singles, Wootton’s Varun Ganti and Kevin Chan defeated Churchill’s Chris Gauch and Elliot Thaker, 6-4, 6-1, in No. 1 doubles, and in No. 3 doubles, Wootton’s Stefan Oganesoff and Souvik Ghosh downed Churchill’s Kevin Wang and Jared Speigel, 6-4, 6-0.