Boys Tennis Team Stopped in State Semis; Goetz/Vroom Fall in Doubles Final
George Mason High School’s streak of four consecutive state championships in boys tennis came to an end Friday, as Radford gritted through severe cramping issues and blistering heat to unseat the defending Group A state champs.
Radford’s Jeff Brooks (6-3, 1-6, 7-6), Sean Weston (6-7, 6-1, 7-6) and Chris Wojtera (2-6, 7-6, 7-6) all won pivotal third-set tie-breaks over Mason’s fourth, fifth and sixth-seeded singles players to give the Bobcats a 4-2 advantage heading into doubles competition. With the match tilted in Radford’s favor, the Bobcats’ doubles tandem of Brooks and Jay Desai defeated Mason’s Brian Sham and Thomas Burnett at No. 2 doubles (6-3, 7-5) to clinch the match and propel Radford on to the finals against Gate City on Saturday.
“It was missed opportunities. Radford came in well prepared and we didn’t capitalize on fundamentals of the game. We double faulted and missed put-aways at the net,” Mason Head Coach Matt Sowers said after the match. “I think our overall lack of states experience didn’t allow us to advance.”
The Mustangs were put in an early hole when Radford No. 1 Malik Mubeen stormed past Mason’s Tim Goetz, 6-4, 6-2. The clash between the two top seeds was a rematch of the state singles championship played on Thursday. Mubeen took that match as well, 6-2, 7-6.
Mason leveled the team score at one with a straight-set victory by No. 3 Johnny Vroom, 6-3, 6-2, over Jay Desai. The Mustangs then capitalized on some of the side effects of the steamy day when No. 2 Brian Sham defeated Radford’s Sanjay Kishore in three sets, 6-3, 6-7, 6-4. After Kishore won the first game in the third set and pulled ahead 40-0 in the second, his legs began cramping, severely limiting his mobility even after a 10-minute injury timeout. With Kishore hobbled, Sham was able to battle back and finally put him away.
“The cramps were everywhere. After the match, I had some people massaging a lot of different things and just drank a lot of Gatorade,” said Kishore, who returned to play in doubles competition with Mubeen. That match was suspended after Desai and Brooks clinched the victory.
The meeting was a rematch of the previous two state tournament finals. This time the Bobcats were able to put away their nemesis.
“It’s becoming a rivalry,” Sowers said. “I would say there’s a good relationship forming with the younger players. There was good sportsmanship across the board. Both teams were able to step away and appreciate the other.”
“We knew we could play this kind of tennis, we just didn’t do it the past two years. It’s elation,” said Kishore. “George Mason is a team we’re really scared of. This is something that’s going to last. We’ll always be able to say ‘We got ’em once!’”
After the loss to Radford, the day’s work was not finished for the Mustangs’ top doubles tandem of Goetz and Vroom. After wrapping the team competition near 7:30 p.m., Goetz and Vroom retook the court at 9 p.m. to battle Gate City’s Dalton Moore and Tyler DeBoard in the semifinals of the doubles tournament. Despite an already long day playing below a searing sun, Goetz and Vroom endured to claim a three-set victory, finally retiring to the team’s hotel 30 minutes before midnight.
The Mustang duo faced Galax’s Matt Nelson and Gee Zachary in the finals at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon. After dropping the first set, 6-3, Mason roared back in the second with a 6-0 win. With Mason ahead 2-1 in the third set, Goetz and Vroom slugged out a prolonged point at deuce to try to break service. The Galax team held however, and used the momentum from the thrilling game to capture the next three games and the state title.