Tennis Team Tops in Mobile Tourney
Four was the charm for the Jesuit tennis team over the weekend. On its fourth try in as many years, the Blue Jays finally took home a championship, sweeping four dual meets to claim their first McGill-Toolen Invitational Tournament trophy.
Jesuit started on Thursday with a 9-0 shutout of Gulf Breeze (Fla.) and followed that up on Friday with a second shutout against Enterprise (Ala.). On Saturday, the Jays took out Huntsville (Ala.) in the semifinal round by a score of 7-2 before claiming the title with an 8-1 win over Niceville (Fla.).
Tournament observers were expecting a much closer final, but the Blue Jays jumped all over the Eagles from the start, sweeping the six singles matches. Junior Jonathan Niehaus got the ball rolling with a brutally efficient dismantling of his opponent on Line 3. Within ten minutes, senior Alex DePascual (Line 2), junior Jacob Niehaus (Line 4) and junior Brandon Beck (Line 5) finished off their opponents. Senior Patrick Torsch scored the clincher with a win at Line 6. At Line 1, senior Gregory Suhor took a bit longer but managed to complete the sweep.
The Eagles did get a moral victory at Line 1 doubles, handing Beck and Suhor their first loss of the year. The Niehaus brothers won handily on Line 2 doubles, as did the duo of DePascual and junior Andrew Nguyen on Line 3.
The Niehauses chalked up the maximum possible eight wins after taking the the court for every match in the tournament–four singles apiece and four as doubles partners. Suhor, DePascual and Torsch won all four of their singles matches.
“That was some inspiring tennis,” said second-year Head Coach Travis Smith of the finals match. “This is a big-time tournament, and bringing home a trophy feels really nice.”
Jesuit actually fielded two entries in the main draw of the 16-team tournament, which featured squads from four states. Jesuit’s B-team scratched and clawed its way to a 2-2 mark for the tournament, finishing in the top eight. After an opening loss to Pensacola Catholic (Fla.), the B-team knocked off St. Michael’s of Baton Rouge (5-4) behind a clutch performance by sophomore Luke Lingle and freshman Christian Lacoste at Line 2 doubles.
Next up for the B-team was the same Enterprise team the A-team had knocked off earlier. The Jays got several clutch performances in that match, ultimately posting a 6-3 win. Sophomores Jack Steib and Trey Hamlin both won tough singles matches and then teamed up for a win at Line 1 doubles, coming back from a 4-0 deficit in an eight-game pro set. Moments before Steib and Hamlin completed their comeback, sophomore Graham Buck and junior Griffin Pels clinched the match on Line 3 with a raucous crowd encouraging both teams.
“The Enterprise coach was actually very upfront about the whole thing,” said Assistant Coach Jay Combe ’83. “He told me they like to cheer hard in Alabama at dual meets and asked if we were OK with that. I told him I wanted our kids to be in pressure situations and to bring it. It turned into a really fun atmosphere. I’m sure it’s something the boys will never forget.”
The B-team’s improbable run ended Saturday in the semifinals of the feed-in consolation bracket. Host McGill-Toolen knocked off the Jays in a tight 5-4 match. Other members of the B-team, both of whom won at least one match during the tournament, were juniors Christian Archaga and Andrew Westholz.
“I’m actually not sure which team I’m more proud of,” said Smith. “The B-team went toe to toe with some really good varsity teams, and several of our guys got their first real taste of pressure-packed team tennis.”
“We’re just so lucky to be able to travel to an event like this,” Smith continued. “You could just feel this group finding its identity as a team during the course of the tournament. Not a lot of schools get to do this, and that’s something I don’t take for granted.”
The Jays open the dual meet season on Tuesday, March 3 against Ben Franklin. Match time is 4:00 p.m. at the UNO Tennis Center.