Thomas S. Wootton High School boys tennis coach Nia Cresham was admittedly concerned when she got the news Thursday morning that junior No. 1 singles player Mateo Cevallos was sick and would not be able to play in the Montgomery County championship finals.
Through four rounds the two-time defending champion Patriots led by just one point, 20-19, over 2009 winner Winston Churchill.
Both teams were in five final matches on Thursday at James H. Blake High.
“I was freaking out, but the boys kept telling me, ‘Don’t worry coach, we’ve got this,’” Cresham said.
They honored their word.
Wootton won four of the seven title matches on Thursday to clinch its third consecutive county championship with a 24-21 advantage over Churchill.
Walt Whitman finished third with 14 points and Montgomery Blair and Bethesda-Chevy Chase tied for fourth with 10 points each.
“Every year it gets sweeter because it gets harder,” Cresham said.
Wootton has been propelled the past three years by tremendous depth. This year’s title was a testament to that.
The Patriots clinched their third consecutive perfect season despite losing three All-Gazette first team selections from last year’s squad.
“Cresham is always saying, it’s hard to choose. Even a lot of alternates would start for a lot of other teams. One of the reasons our team has done so well is because we can move people up and still not struggle. There are so many good players,” said Julien Mu, whose win with partner Humphrey Huong over top-seeded Blair clinched Wootton’s title.
Whitman sophomore Aries Wong won his first county title by virtue of Cevallos’ default.
Varun Ganti and Kevin Chan dropped just two games in a straight-set win against Churchill at No. 2 doubles and Allen Lee and Jonathan Lee won the No. 3 doubles title.
Wootton sophomore No. 2 singles player Titas Bera fought three opponents Thursday: his nerves, Churchill junior Michael Gauch and a gusting wind. He recovered nicely from a first-set loss to win in three.
Churchill junior No. 3 Kevin Chen, the tournament’s second seed, upended top-seeded Gabe Fan in two-and-a-half-hour, three-set encounter.
Churchill’s Matt Fine lost just three games en route to winning Thursday’s No. 4 singles championship.
“It’s heartbreaking as a team for us to be that close and lose, everyone was kind of writing us off,” Fine said. “But we only lose a couple of seniors and Wootton is losing more. If we came within one match of splitting the championship now, I’m really looking forward to what we might be able to do next year.”