Sidwell Friends boys’ tennis Coach Logan West knew before the season that the three talented incoming freshmen would eventually make it to the top of the lineup. All three compete in tournaments outside of high school tennis, and their presence would make the Quakers a favorite in the competitive Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference.
But West had no intention of naming them starters right away. The trio — Michael Zhang, Akira Morgenstern and Winston Matthews — had to earn their opportunities by challenging the returning starters for a position.
“It gave the upperclassmen respect for us,” said Morgenstern, who split time between the top three singles flights. “If [West] just puts us top three, it wouldn’t have been fair to them.”
The tactic worked, and buoyed by its depth and standout freshmen, Sidwell Friends would go undefeated in six conference matches to win the MAC regular season title. On Saturday afternoon, the host Quakers claimed the outright conference crown, their second in four seasons, by beating rival and defending champion Potomac School, 6-1, in the MAC tournament final.
The Panthers scored first when sophomore Braeden Meikle blanked Zhang, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 1 singles. But Sidwell quickly evened the score with a convincing 6-0, 6-1 win by seniors Kaerod Amare and Will Faulks over Potomac School sophomore Evrim Ozcan and junior John Fleming at No. 1 doubles.
At No. 2 doubles, seniors Billy Chen and Vikram Krishna held off Panthers senior Stephen Yeonas and sophomore John Sterling, 6-0, 2-6 and 10-8 in a decisive tiebreaker, while Morgenstern defeated sophomore Matthew Tran, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 2 singles to extend his team’s lead to 3-1.
Another freshman, Matthews, provided the clinching point for Sidwell, rallying from a set down and saving two match points to beat senior Luke Nardini, 3-6, 6-0 and 12-10 in a tiebreaker.
“I think it’s a good problem to have,” West said of having three players alternate at No. 1 singles, “especially with the chemistry the boys have. I sort of laid out at the beginning of the season: It’s all in your hands where you play.”
Quakers junior Nico Pastor also rallied from a set down to beat senior Tayte Dupree, 4-6, 6-1 and 10-8 in a tiebreaker, at No. 4 singles, and sophomore Erik Barker and junior Dean Mazlish helped the team finish off the afternoon with six straight points with a 6-1, 6-0 win over sophomores Ethan Lee and Enrico Cecchi at No. 3 doubles.