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Monday, March 4, 2019

Patriots Win Thriller to Advance to Boys Final Against Vikings at USTA National Spring Team Championships, Girls Semifinals Set; McNally Advances at BNP Paribas Qualifying

©Colette Lewis 2019--
Mobile, AL--

The Spring in the USTA National Spring Championships was nowhere to be found Monday, with temperatures staying in the 40s all day and a breeze adding to the misery of the spectators. But blankets, hats and down jackets, as well as warming tents took some of the edge off, and the heat of competition also provided a distraction from the wintry conditions.

The boys completed their quarterfinal matches Monday morning, then returned to the courts in the afternoon for the semifinals. The Vikings clinched their place in the final before darkness fell, beating the Seahawks but the Patriots finished their 4-3 win over the Rams under the lights at the Mobile Tennis Center.

The Patriots took the doubles point, with Anders Gibbons and Georgi Mavrodiev earning a 8-0 decision at 18s over Leighton Allen and Jameson Corsillo and Marko Mesarovic and Jaxson Lamb taking the 14s 8-6 over Landon Ardila and Mason Nguyen. The Rams won the 16s doubles, with Teddy Truwit and Frank Thompson beating Ben Shelton and Alvaro Pedraza 8-5.

The Rams tied the match up quickly, with Allen handing Gibbons his first loss of the tournament at No. 1 18s 6-1, 6-0. The Patriots got the next two points for a 3-1 lead, with Mavrodiev beating Corsillo at No. 2 18s 6-3, 6-2 and Shelton beating Truwit at No. 1 16s 6-2, 6-3.  Thompson took out Pedraza 7-5, 7-6(4) at No. 2 16s to make it 3-2 with the 14s, both in third sets, serving as the deciding matches. Ardila brought the Rams even with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win over Mesarovic at No. 1, while Lamb and Nguyen were locked in a battle at No. 2.  Nguyen saved three match points serving at 4-5 in the third, with seemingly every point turning into a lengthy rally featuring drive forehands, moonballs, drop shots, slices and down the line backhands, while their teammates yelled encouragement from the sidelines. Lamb held to make it 6-5, once again putting the pressure on Nguyen, and this time Nguyen couldn't hold off Lamb. After two overrules of Nguyen by the roving umpire in the final game, Lamb earned another match point, and he stroked a backhand winner to earn a 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 victory.

Patriots coach William Brown has coached in all six of the National Spring Team Championships in Mobile, finishing third with boys in the first year and taking the title with a girls team the following year. Yet he couldn't remember being involved in a more exciting match than today's semifinal.

"I tell you what, I've never been a part of a match like that," said Brown, who has his own private academy in St. Louis. "Oh my gosh."

Brown said there are occasions when he'll give players advice on a particular strategy or tactic, but late in the third set of the last match on is not one of them.

"There's a couple of points throughout the match when you'll say, hey, think about this, maybe step in, be a little more aggressive on the second serve, things like that, but for the most part, the tighter it gets, the simpler I feel like I need to be," Brown said. "They are racing all over the place, but then, so am I. Maybe I'm keeping it simple for myself."

Brown said this win was particularly satisfying given his loss to the Rams in the semifinals in the first year of the event, when he was also coaching the Patriots.

"For me, selfishly, personally, this is kind of rewarding," Brown said. "These guys (his team) knew it too, because they know some of the players from that first year. And I communicate with half of the team from that first year still, text and talk occasionally, so it made it fun and interesting that way."

Kevin Quay, the Vikings coach, doesn't have that same history with the tournament, although he had coached at the 12s National Spring Team event in Tucson, now in its third year.  But in his first year, Quay has led his team to the final, and although their semifinal win finished as a 4-3 score, they had earned their fourth point when the Seahawks had just one point.

"For the third match in a row we won the doubles," said Quay, who coaches at Isla Del Sol Country Club in St. Petersburg Florida. "But this morning, we were behind in five of the six singles matches and had to come back. In this match, we were ahead in all the singles matches and were able to close it out, getting the three matches we needed."

The Vikings took the doubles point with 16s Nicholas Heng and Alexander Chang beating Alex Finkelstein and Jacob Lowen 8-6 and 14s Cooper Williams and Santiago Muhala beating Dylan Charlap and Lucas Pak 8-3.  The Seahawks won the 18s doubles with Alexander Richards and Holden Koons beating Joshua Raab and Kieran Foster 8-6.

Muhala made it 2-0 Vikings with a 7-5, 6-0 decision over Pak at No. 2 14s, and Foster gave the Vikings a 3-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Koons at No. 2 18s. Charlap got the Seahawks on the board with a 7-6(2), 7-6(5) win over Williams at No. 1 14s, but Heng clinched for the Seahawks with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Finkelstein at No. 1 16s.  All matches are played out in this format, and the Seahawks took the final two matches in three sets, with Richards beating Raab 5-7, 6-2, 6-3 at No. 18s and Lowen beating Chang 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 at No. 2 16s.

"This has been a great experience," Quay said. "Unbelievably well run tournament. I'm so impressed. They are very good with the players, and the coaches are treated very well."
Three of the girls quarterfinals were decided by 4-3 scores, with the Redhawks beating the Leopards (CORRECTION: due to a reporting error, the Redhawks win over the Leopards was actually 5-2 not 4-3), the Pirates beating the Bengals and the Firecrackers beating the Devils by that score.  The Firecrackers' win over the Devils couldn't have been closer, with Gianna Pielet saving a match point in the third set tiebreaker that decided which team would advance to the semifinals. Pielet defeated the Devils Andrea Cerdan 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(6) at No. 1 18s, with the Firecrackers set to take on the Pirates in Tuesday's semifinals.  The Redhawks will play the Tornados, who beat the Diamondbacks 5-2.

Complete results from today's second and third round matches can be found at the TennisLink site.

Women's qualifying has begun at the BNP Parbias Open in Indian Wells, and wild card Caty McNally has picked up her fourth WTA Top 100 win, beating No. 90 Kristyna Pliskova of the Czech Republic 2-6, 7-6(6), 7-5 today. McNally ended up needing nine match points, eight of them in the final game, before she finally broke Pliskova to end the two hour and 37 minute contest. The 17-year-old will face No. 19 seed Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland in the next round.

The BNP Paribas women's main draw is also out, which has, prior to qualifying, 15 US women competing for the title.

The men's qualifying draw is out, with Ohio State junior JJ Wolf among the nine US men looking to earn a place in the main draw.