The Westminster tennis teams brought home two trophies from last Saturday’s festivities at Clayton County International Park. On the boys side, the Wildcats avenged last year’s loss to region-rival Blessed Trinity to capture the Class AA state championship. The girls lost to Blessed Trinity in the final, taking runner-up honors for the second straight season.
Heading into 2010, Westminster’s boys had won the state championship (bouncing back and forth between Class AA and AAA) every year since 2000. They were denied by the Titans in last season’s championship in 3-2 thriller, but that setback only reinvigorated them for a title run in 2011.
The self-called “Redeem Team” made good on its preseason pledge to bring back the winner’s trophy to Buckhead. Head coach Wade Boggs’ squad set the tone throughout the 2011 campaign by defeating Blessed Trinity both in the regular season and the region final. Both showdowns, however, came down to the final match before Westminster survived by 3-2 margins. It was evident anything could happen in the state title clash between two evenly-matched powerhouses.
Three of the five matches went quickly on Saturday. Westminster’s Eugene Oh, who finished his season with an individual record of 21-0, prevailed 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. Saharsh Chordia dominated 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles to put Westminster one point away from victory. At No. 1 doubles, however, Blessed Trinity rolled to a 6-2, 6-3 win to stay within striking distance.
That set the stage for dramatics on two different courts. Westminster’s No. 2 doubles team of seniors Hilliard Burton and Tommy Reid led 6-2, 5-2 and held championship points in two different games. When the Titans stormed back for 4-5, though, Wildcat No. 2 singles player Spain Short had an opportunity to win the clincher.
Short had lost to Blessed Trinity’s No. 2, Andrew Barnes, in last year’s state championship and twice already this year. The tide turned, however, when it mattered most. Short pulled out a thrilling 7-6(5), 6-4 victory give Westminster the title.
“We stressed ‘redemption’ from day one,” Reid explained. “To get back the trophy and do it at the expense of our biggest rival, it means everything. I think it was appropriate that Spain beat his opponent for the first time to win it for us. But he owes me, because I double-faulted when we had match point at No. 2 doubles.”
LADY TITANS CROWNED …
Westminster’s girls were unable to avenge their 2010 loss to the Lady Titans, who once again featured nationally-ranked Kourtney Keegan at No. 1 singles. Both Keegan and No. 3 singles player Shannon Tooley raced to routine victories, putting the Titans one point away from the title.
The Wildcats led most of the way at both doubles positions, but they needed a victory by No. 3 singles player Rachel Corbin to extend the overall match. Instead, Blessed Trinity’s Allison Kuse fought off a stern challenge from the Westminster sophomore and clinched the championship for her team thanks to a 6-4, 6-3 triumph.
Although it fell just short of the title, Westminster enjoyed a memorable run through the postseason. The Wildcats avenged a 2009 state tournament loss to Calhoun by staging a come-from-behind win over the Yellow Jackets in round two. They followed that up by outlasting rival Lovett 3-2, winning the decisive match 6-7(2), 7-6(5), 7-6(4) at No. 2 doubles in a three-hour marathon during which Lovett was one point away from victory on two different occasions.
“We ran into a buzzsaw again in Blessed Trinity,” remarked Ostrowski, a senior and team captain. “But we were just about one game away from losing to Calhoun and one point away—twice—from losing to Lovett. Nobody expected us to make it this far, so we had an unbelievable season.”