By Drew Costley
George Mason High School’s varsity boys tennis team competed in the Virginia High School League singles, doubles, and team state championships last week, but did not take first place in any of those competitions for the first time in five years. The George Mason Mustangs had won four consecutive VHSL team state championships prior to losing 5-1 to Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School last Saturday.
George Mason senior Jacob Morris, the Mustangs’ top seed, competed throughout the weekend, beginning with a second-place finish in the singles state championship last Thursday. Morris defeated Glenvar High School’s Igor Ponjavic 6-2, 6-1 in the state semifinals on Thursday morning.
“I was hitting from the baseline at first,” Morris said. “I wasn’t really sure how to approach it but then I started approaching the net when I was down 2-1 in the first set.” Morris successfully played 75 percent of his 16 approaches against Ponjavic.
Morris, who had been nursing a shoulder injury for a few weeks prior to the state championships, said he was glad he didn’t have to play three sets against Ponjavic.
Morris lost 7-5, 6-2 to Karl Katlaps of Maggie Walker in the state final later that day.
“It was a strange match for a championship,” said George Mason Head Coach Matt Sowers. “Both guys were breaking each other and not holding serve, which is what you would traditionally see. But I’m pleased with Jacob Morris’ effort and how he played out there today.”
Morris teamed up with fellow senior Nate Jones last Friday for the state doubles championship. In the state semifinals on Friday morning they beat Zach Parks and Peyton Palmer of Gate City High School 6-0, 6-0.
Morris and Jones advanced to the state finals, where they faced Simon Willard and Freddie Roberts of Riverheads High School in a rematch of the Region 2A East championship. Willard and Roberts won the region championship 6-7 (7-2), 6-2, 6-0 and won the state finals 5-7, 6-2, 6-4.
“It was a very close one. It was a lot better than our regional match-up,” Morris said. “I mean I’m proud of the way we played regardless. It was a tight match. … I’d imagine it was fun to watch.”
Roberts said that he was nervous during the first set, which he and Willard lost to Morris and Jones.
“I was a little tense at the beginning,” Roberts said. “Then as the match came along I got better. … But George Mason is a good team. We respect them a lot. They’ve given us good fights this year.”
Willard said he and Roberts weren’t too worried after losing the first set because they had been in that position before during the regional final. Riverheads Head Coach Doris Scott said seeing Morris and Jones in the regional final helped prepare Willard and Roberts for their championship match-up.
“I think the pace of ball that they hit, the consistent ball that they hit, [and] having played them a week ago made a little bit of a difference for us,” Scott said.