Reservoir’s Biyik Akinshemoyin played the Maryland state boys’ singles championship with a small dose of self-prescribed anger Saturday against Wootton’s Mateo Cevallos. It was a rematch from last year’s state final, which the durable Cevallos won after Akinshemoyin forfeited in the third set due to leg cramps.
A year later, Akinshemoyin has learned valuable lessons about hydrating himself, and he carried a large cooler to the court Saturday. With a fresh body intact, he overwhelmed Cevallos early and often in the final, winning, 6-2, 6-1, to claim the state championship in College Park.
“Ever since that day [in last year’s state final], that was a lesson learned for me. And I made sure that I needed to come back and do the right thing in terms of hydration and everything else,” Akinshemoyin said. “Now in the finals, I came with full force of momentum.”
That momentum didn’t pick up until Akinshemoyin broke a 2-2 tie against Cevallos in the first set, and from then on he was dominant. He won the first set by holding serve and grinding out a number of acrobatic returns from Cevallos — and he closed the first set 6-2 after charging the net and delivering a backhand that Cevallos could only watch. Using a strong serve, he cruised out to a 3-0 lead in the second set — and Cevallos never threatened the rest of the match.
“I knew it was going to be tough from the beginning, from the moment I saw the draw,” Cevallos said. “Unfortunately I came up short.”
Cevallos’s teammates, Gabriel Fan and Titas Bera, won the doubles title, 6-1, 6-2, over Walter Johnson’s Baran Barris and William Schmidt. Churchill’s tandem of Haley Keats and Sriya Movva swept the girls’ doubles title, 6-0, 6-0, over Easton’s Katie Claggett and Nora Jacobsen, and the Bulldogs picked up another state championship in mixed doubles, as Michael Gauch and Katie Gauch defeated Winters Mill’s Bryan Gieselman and Amanda Fewster, 6-3, 6-1.
Howard County was well represented in singles title play Saturday, as Atholton freshman Irene Lu defeated sophomore teammate Victoria Kogan, 6-1, 6-4, in the girls’ state championship. Lu, who entered the tournament as the No. 16 seed, noted that the familiarity with Kogan presented a unique challenge on the biggest stage of her young high school career.
“She played really well. I was just trying to stay in there,” said Lu. “In my first year, I just wanted to play my best. I didn’t know how far I could actually make it. I mean I dreamed of like, becoming state champ. But I never really thought it might happen like this.”
While Lu’s career at Atholton is just taking off, Saturday brought closure for Akinshemoyin. After making deep postseason runs in the state tournament as a sophomore and junior, he won Saturday in front of a throng of family and friends — who crowned the UMBC recruit with a cardboard crown after the match.
“I didn’t feel like royalty, man. I was just happy. I actually didn’t like the crown,” Akinshemoyin. “Winning a state championship is really big. But this is just the first steps to greatness.”