Potomac School junior Alex Gerson could not help but look around, soaking in the deafening noise from the home crowd that got louder with each point during his No. 1 doubles match.
Gerson, with partner Chris Caskin, rallied from a set down to beat their Sidwell Friends opponents, 3-6, 6-4, 10-6, to clinch the Mid-Atlantic Conference boys’ tennis tournament title, 4-3, for the host Panthers on a humid morning Saturday in McLean.
“The match felt huge,” Gerson said. “I could tell looking around that it was the clincher. It was a really good atmosphere.”
The MAC title is the sixth in a row for Potomac School and 16th in the past 20 seasons.
The Panthers struggled early against a young but highly talented Quakers team looking to knock off the No. 1 seed. They lost the first set in two of the four singles flights and two out of the three doubles matches.
But things began to look up for Potomac School when freshman Joe Nardini kicked off the team’s victories with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles.
“We started off a little flat,” Potomac School assistant coach Mani Barajas-Alexander said. “But [Nardini’s win] gave us momentum and fired everyone else up.”
The biggest upset came at No. 1 singles, with Sidwell Friends sophomore Jacob Walker taking down Potomac School senior Josh Hublitz, 7-5, 3-6, 10-6.
Hublitz, who has signed his letter-of-intent to play tennis at North Carolina Wilmington next year, had not lost a match this season and was 3-0 in career head-to-head matches against Walker, including a 6-3, 6-1 win earlier this season.
The turning point for Walker was in the tiebreaker when Hublitz, the two-time defending champion at No. 1 singles, smashed an overhead while leading 6-3. Walker chased down the shot and hit a running cross-court forehand winner that boosted his confidence.
Quakers Coach Octavio Delasobera “helped me calm down,” said Walker, who lost last year to Hublitz in the No. 1 singles finals. “I just started believing I could win.”
Sidwell Friends added wins at No. 4 singles, with Henry Wessel closing out a nearly two-hour long, 6-2, 4-6, 10-6 victory to end the tournament, and at No. 2 doubles, where Avikar Govil and Matt Nolan won, 6-4, 7-6 (8-6).
Potomac School was able to secure the MAC title early by winning four flights before the Quakers’ rally.
Stephen Hu won at the second flight singles, 6-0, 2-6, 10-7, and Jason Kwak and Will Potts took home the No. 3 doubles title with a 6-3, 6-0 victory for the hosts.
The Panthers will be the top seed at the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association boys’ tennis tournament that starts Tuesday.
“We’re a really close team,” Nardini said. “We’re all just pushing each other to get better and hopefully we’ll win even more.” ●