Jefferson Coach John Myers inherited a proud boys’ tennis team at the school six years ago, and he followed up with steady success of his own — including Liberty District and Northern Region team titles in four of the next six seasons, and a runner-up finish in the state tournament three years ago.
The “big one,” as Myers calls the Virginia AAA state championship, had always eluded the team. Until Saturday.
Jefferson’s top three singles players turned in stellar performances, as did the school’s top two doubles teams to lead the Colonials to a 5-3 win over Langley to capture the Virginia AAA state team title in boys’ tennis Saturday in Newport News.
“I think we kind of got the monkey off our back,” Myers said. “It was super.”
It was the fourth time this season that Jefferson and Liberty District rival Langley had played this season, and the Saxons threatened to ruin the Colonials’ season after they won the bottom three singles matches to tie the score at 3 heading to doubles play.
Chris Vrabel, Jefferson’s No. 1 singles player, beat Langley’s Brandon Lee, 6-4, 6-2, while freshman Mark Prettyman took down the Saxons’ Kevin Shen, 6-3, 6-4, to put two quick scores on the board — but the third singles slot made all the difference in Jefferson’s pursuit for the title. The Colonials’ No. 3, Kevin Wan, was embattled in a tight match after splitting the first two sets against Langley’s Hammy Abdu-Hambda (6-1, 2-6), the second time in 10 days that he and Abdu-Hambda had went down to the wire.
But Wan was in control in the third set, winning 6-1 to give Jefferson its third win, and he and Vrabel beat Lee and Abdu-Hambda, 6-4, 6-1, in No. 1 doubles. Prettyman and Nikhil Ramachandran beat J.T. Von Seggern and Joe LaFuria, 6-4, 6-1, to seal the state championship win.
“It means a lot,” said Wan, whose team finished 20-0. “It was really great to beat them for a fourth time.”
Langley’s winners included James Schenck over Ramachandran in No. 4 singles, 6-4, 7-5; LaFuria over Saelig Khuttar, 6-4, 7-6, in No. 5 singles; and Chase Lewis over Ian Lin, 6-2, 6-3, in No. 6 singles.
“It was tense. . . . They had nothing to lose. They just let it all hang out,” Myers said of playing a district rival in the state final. “They went out and played a really good match, but we were able to close it out at the end, using doubles.”