For the first couple weeks of the season, the boys’ tennis team rolled through opponents and proved their dominance. On Apr. 26, the team had their toughest test yet, a home match against arch rival Whitman, which the team passed with flying colors.
The clash between the two titans of Maryland high school boys’ tennis, the Vikings and the Patriots, carried much more importance than a typical regular season match.
Last year, Whitman edged out the Patriots by a single match at the county meet and returned all of their starters to this year’s team. The boys came in counting on victories by their top singles player, junior Joseph Brailovsky, and by their three doubles pairs but knew the competition would be top-notch.
As the first four matches played out, it became apparent that the boys would not be beat. The doubles pair of freshmen Simon Huynh and Alex Yeh won their match to give the Patriots their first win of the day, and Brailovsky finished off his opponent in two sets to increase the advantage to 2-0. Another doubles win put the Patriots on the brink of winning the overall match up, and when senior Ben Fellman, playing at the second singles position, pulled off a massive upset for the decisive fourth win, the boys secured their 10th and sweetest victory of the season.
Later in the evening, freshman Daniel Zhang emerged with a thrilling and impressive win in three sets as the boys won the overall matchup 5-2.
“It was awesome,” junior Justin Slud said. “Whitman crushed us last year and to come back and get revenge, it pushed our team.”
The Whitman victory displayed strong performances across the board, but what will make the Patriots most dangerous entering the postseason is the emergence of their freshmen. Huynh and Yeh have provided a consistent and dominant option at the second doubles spot.
Zhang, the only freshman singles starter, dropped the first set of his match 6-0 and needed to overcome a 4-1 deficit in the third set to stave off elimination. His match culminated in a 12-10 score on the decisive tiebreaker.
The top two singles players also made statements. Brailovsky faced a Whitman player who could be his strongest competition at the state tournament in late May and won in two sets, 6-2, 6-2. Fellman defied expectation in winning his match and his strong play gives the Patriots a scary 1-2 punch on the singles’ side.
The Whitman win kept the Patriots’ undefeated record alive and continued their roll through the regular season.
The boys swept John F. Kennedy, Walter Johnson, Clarksburg and QO and dropped only one match in wins over Richard Montgomery, Rockville and Churchill. On May 3, the Patriots stomped over another talented rival in Churchill with a 7-0 win.
Even with a convincing victory over one of the best teams in the state in Whitman, the boys will keep their foot on the pedal heading into the county tournament starting on May 5 and finishing on May 11. “Everything was close, so they have to stay up, because last year we lost to Whitman by one point in counties,” coach Nia Cresham said. “I want counties for the boys. We can do it.”