The waiting was the hardest part for Loudoun County High School junior Matt Brandon.
More than an hour passed between the end of Brandon and senior Phil Griffith's doubles victory and the end of the Group AA boys tennis team championship Saturday. In that time, Brandon watched a potential Raiders victory -- and the school's first state championship in any team sport -- slip away into a 5-4 loss to Heritage of Lynchburg.
Brandon and Griffith's 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles gave Loudoun County a 4-3 edge in the team match. At that time, the Raiders held a one-set lead in the other two doubles matches. But the Pioneers rallied to win No. 1 and No. 3 doubles and, thus, the state title at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.
"I would've rather had [the overall match] decided by our doubles match, instead of having to sit around and watch and wait," said Brandon, who was undefeated in two singles and two doubles matches at the tournament.
"It was hard watching. Everyone was up a set when we won, and I was like, `Man, we just killed those guys,` " Brandon said. "I thought there was no chance we would lose. But once the [Heritage] crowd got into it, things changed."
The decisive match came at No. 3 doubles. Seniors Chris Downs and Craig Schulz fought back from a 5-2 deficit to win the first set, 7-5, and then took a 3-0 lead in the second. But Heritage's animated team of Jason Carey and Gregory Hoffman rallied to win the second and third sets by 6-4 scores.
"It's definitely harder to take since we were so close, but it's hard to describe how much harder it is," Loudoun County Coach Jim Noland said. "Several people came up to me and congratulated me before the match was even over, and that made it a lot harder."
Senior Jared Anderson (No. 2 singles) and Downs (No. 5 singles) won both of their singles matches at the state tournament, as did Brandon at No. 4.
The Raiders' weekend was characterized by hard-fought comebacks, like the one Downs and Schulz made in the first set of their doubles match. Unlike Friday, when Loudoun County made several comebacks on the way to a 7-2 victory over Jamestown, Saturday's rallies fell just short.
Senior Hunter Davis trailed, 4-1, in the first set and 3-0 in the third set of his No. 3 singles match on Saturday, and both times he fought back to force a tiebreaker only to lose.
Still, the Loudoun County players took pride in those comebacks, along with the improvement they made throughout the season. In Noland's eight years of coaching at the Leesburg school, the Raiders have made two trips to the state tournament and five trips to the Region II tournament.
"Before this year, I don't know if the student body even knew we had a tennis team," Brandon said. At school Monday, "half the people I ran into came up and congratulated me on the season. That was the first time that people knew I was on the team. At least now they know we're a powerhouse."
No. 1: Dubravko Lakos (H) def. Phil Griffith, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6); No. 2: Jared Anderson (LC) def. Daniel Yu, 6-3, 6-1; No. 3: Michael Buill (H) def. Hunter Davis, 7-6 (7-2), 2-6, 7-6 (7-4); No. 4: Matt Brandon (LC) def. Gregory Hoffman, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3; No. 5: Chris Downs (LC) def. Jason Carey, 6-2, 6-1; No. 6: Philip Spradlin (H) def. Craig Schulz, 6-1, 6-4.
No. 1: Lakos/Yu def. Anderson/Davis, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3; No. 2: Brandon/Griffith def. Buill/Spradlin, 6-0, 6-1; No. 3: Carey/Hoffman def. Davis/Downs, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.