Beck, Hamlin Close the Deal as Jesuit Tennis Captures Ninth Consecutive State Championship

Posted April 26, 2016 / Last updated April 27, 2016

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The Jesuit Blue Jays claim the 2016 LHSAA Tennis Division 1 State Tennis Championship title with a total of 12.5 points.

The Jesuit Blue Jays claim the 2016 LHSAA Tennis Division 1 State Tennis Championship title with a total of 12.5 points.

Jesuit’s tennis team narrowly defeated favored Catholic High to claim the program’s ninth consecutive state title on Monday and Tuesday, April 25 and 26, in Monroe. The Jays scored 12.5 points to 11.5 for Catholic (teams earn one point for every match won at state, with a half-point bonus for semifinal wins).

“That’s about as close as it gets,” said an elated coach Travis Smith. “Coaches talking about total team efforts is almost cliche, but this was the real deal.”

Indeed it was. Had Jesuit tied in total points with Catholic, the Bears would have been awarded the title by virtue of their star sophomore Nick Watson’s individual title in singles.

“So literally every win we got was essential,” said Smith. “If even one of those 12 matches our guys won goes the other way, we’re coming home with the second place trophy. And every single team member notched at least one of those 12 wins.”

Senior Brandon Beck and junior Trey Hamlin scored the Jays’ final point by defeating teammates Jack Steib, a junior, and Cristian Archaga, a senior, in semifinal action Tuesday morning. Beck and Hamlin earned their second consecutive appearance in the doubles final with a 7-5, 6-4 win. One court over, Catholic High’s No. 1 doubles team lost their semifinal to St. Paul’s, mathematically clinching Jesuit’s team title.

At that point, the only remaining drama was whether or not Beck and Hamlin would claim the doubles crown. But St. Paul’s top-seeded Shiell brothers, Kurt and Kent, who had already helped out Jesuit by eliminating Catholic from contention, didn’t do the Jays any more favors, playing nearly flawless tennis to beat Beck and Hamlin 6-2, 5-7, 6-1. The final capped off a dominant three-match run by the Shiells, who eliminated Jesuit’s senior Niehaus brothers, Jonathan and Jacob, by a score of 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. The Niehauses were the defending state champions.

“Jonathan and Jacob have carried us so many times,” said Smith. “I’m sorry they went out with a loss, but the two points they earned by advancing to the quarterfinals were critical.”

Speaking of critical, Jesuit’s No. 3 doubles team, the unseeded duo of Steib and Archaga, earned three points the hard way on Day One of the tournament. They blazed through their first round match in straight sets, but then had to battle through two three-set nailbiters in the Round of 16 and the quarterfinals to earn their semifinal showdown with Beck and Hamlin.

“This is the second year in a row we’ve asked Jack to work in that No. 3 doubles slot as an unseeded entry at state with a relatively new partner,” said Smith. “And both years he’s come through in a big way. The guy is just clutch”

“As for Archaga, here’s a guy who’s been in the program for four years but never had a chance on the big stage like this. If anyone had a reason to be nervous, it was Cristian. But he’s absolutely fearless. His physical game may not have been as strong as some of the players he competed against, but his mental game more than made up for it. He’s a guy you want to go to battle with.”

Archaga wasn’t the only untested Blue Jay making a successful debut at state. Junior Graham Buck scored two points by advancing to the singles quarterfinals. Folks in any sport will tell you that it’s difficult to beat a good opponent twice in a short time span. But that’s exactly what Buck had to do in his Round of 16 match. There, he met up for the second time in eight days with St. Augustine’s Allen Miller. Miller had pushed Buck to three sets in the regional singles semifinals, but there would be no third set necessary this time. A determined Buck methodically executed a 6-2, 6-4 victory.

Last but not least, there was sophomore Christian Lacoste, who only got the nod to participate at regionals after an injury to junior Luke Lingle. He came through in his first round match at state against East Ascension’s Alex Zeringue, winning 6-2, 6-1 to earn a point, before losing to Southwood’s Andre Edwards in the Round of Sixteen.

As happy as Smith was with the outcome, he couldn’t help but be a bit wistful. “I hope somewhere in the future I’m proven wrong, but I can’t imagine a better group of senior leaders than we had this year,” said Smith. “Those guys will be missed.”

Read More – Jesuit, Dominican repeat as state tennis champions