May 18th, 2013

Tigers take state doubles crown

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Conor Revell

Managing Editor

Tigers take state doubles crown
St. X sophomore Brandon Lancaster was the runner-up in singles / photo by Conor Revell

LEXINGTON, Ky. –- Dominant is the word for the St. Xavier High School tennis team. The Tigers almost completed a trifecta by winning the team state title Friday and the doubles championship Saturday at UK’s Boone/Downey Tennis Complex.

The only thing St. X didn’t win was the individual state championship.

Zachary Kuo and Parker Theineman defeated teammates Coleman Cox and Nick Waldeck 6-3, 6-2 in the doubles final.

“I just need to make calls and get my serves over the net,” Kuo said. “I’m like the logistics, playing consistent, while Parker is the big hammer that puts it away.”

It was St. X’s seventh doubles titles since 2000 and it marked the third time that it had both teams competing in the doubles final. The Tigers previously accomplished the feat in 1997 and 2004.

“I didn’t tell them anything before the match,” St. X head coach Kerry Lancaster said. “They’ve been here before. We’ve done this before. Last year, we actually had two guys play singles together in the finals. We didn’t coach either one of them because we didn’t want to show favoritism. As far as I’m concerned, they both won. They’re the best two doubles teams out of their teammates and they’re the best two in the state.”

Kuo and Thieneman breezed through the tournament virtually unchallenged, allowing only nine points before the title match.

“When we were watching the semifinal match, everybody was asking us who we want to play,” Thieneman said. “Would you rather play the other guys? But no, it was awesome getting to play my teammates. It was kind of weird at first, but we played them in the regional finals. It’s basically a win-win situation.”

Cox and Waldeck fought through a few highly contested battles to get to the title match, none tougher than their semifinal against Trinity’s Gustafa Gardezi and Randy Strause. Cox and Waldeck overcame an 8-3 deficit in the super tiebreaker to win 5-7, 6-2 (11-9).

“When you have an 8-3 lead in a super tiebreaker sometimes it can be slightly misleading,” Trinity asssistant coach Paul Vale said. “Momentum is a funny thing. When one or two points don’t go your way, the other team can suddenly take advantage really fast.

“This is the first year that the KHSAA said that we aren’t going to have a full third set for the championship. A lot of coaches and players didn’t know this until yesterday, but you have to work with the system and there are no excuses. I believe our guys had a good game plan, we just didn’t come through. I’m still incredibly proud of them though.”

For the first time in KHSAA history, the third set was decided by a 10-point super tiebreaker rather than a traditional set.

The teams fought through five ties in the first set before Gardezi-Strause won the final two points to take the set. Cox-Waldeck breezed in the second set to force the tiebreaker.

Unlike the second set, both partners came out ready to play in the tiebreaker. Gardezi-Strause took a 4-2 lead and was up 8-6.

Cox-Waldeck fought back to tie it at 9. The duo then scored the final two points to secure the thrilling win.

“We just made the easy shots,” Cox said. “They got nervous. We travel a lot during the season and we play a lot of tough matches throughout the season to get ready for this type of stuff. We were just ready for the moment more than they were.”

While the Tigers didn’t win the individual title, they still made lots of noise.

Covington Catholic’s Austin Hussey ended Sean Donohue’s bid for a repeat title by winning 6-3, 6-4 in the semis.

“A lot of things happened today,” Donohue said. “Obviously, Austin played well today. I was the favorite win to the tournament, but anything can happen. That’s why it’s unfortunate that sometimes people that are the favorite go down. But hats off to Austin; he deserved it.”

Hussey went on to beat St. X sophomore Brandon Lancaster 6-4, 7-5 in the championship match. Lancaster is the coach’s son.

“I’m proud as a father today,” Coach Lancaster said. “Not just as a coach, he’s a good young man. You can’t win them all. It’s good for character; it’s good for the future. He’ll look back at this and learn from it. This is why you play -- sometimes you win more by losing. He had a great tournament . I’ve nothing but good things to say.”

It appeared Hussey would win with no issue when he won the first set and led the second set 5-2. But then the Covington Catholic sophomore started to experience cramps and there was a stoppage of play twice.

Brandon Lancaster fought back to knot the set 5-5, but Hussey battled through the cramps and pulled through with a huge win. His mother, Kara Moloney Hussey, was the female singles runner-up in 1995, so Saturday’s win gave him bragging rights. 

“I wanted it bad,” Hussey said when asked what kept him going. “I mean, this has been my goal for this season. I wanted to win the tournament and it was right there. I really just wanted to get it. You got to keep going and finish it.”

Lancaster didn’t have an easy road to the championship. In the semifinals, he had to defeat Trinity’s Emerson Walsh after losing to him twice during the regular season. Lancaster upset Walsh 5-7, 6-4 (10-2).

The sophomore was thrilled to have finally beaten Trinity’s best player, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  

“After I lost to (Walsh) for the second time this season, I realized that I would have a shot at him in the semifinals,” Brandon Lancaster said. “I knew I couldn’t play Sean in the semis, so I knew that I would get him again and that’s what we worked on the weeks before and made changes to my game.”

Walsh, a senior, led the Shamrocks all year.

 “It’s been amazing playing for Trinity -- we’ve had a lot of success in the state,” he said. “I’ve had a great time over the last four years. But today was disappointing. Brandon played great; it’s the first time he has beaten me. He’s a great player and he deserves it.”

Vale had a lot to say about the young man Walsh has become.

“It hurt and stings right now for Emerson, but he’s going to smile more and more when he looks back at his time at Trinity,” the assistant coach said. “He doesn’t realize how much of an impact he has had to this team and to his school. He represents Trinity in a great way. He’s an ambassador of the school. He left it out there. Most men lead lives of quiet desperation. What he has had was quiet confidence and he’s going to go further in life than I could imagine.”


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