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This story was updated at 3:30 p.m. on June 16.

Oakton, Marshall girls finish runners-up

by Nick Eilerson

Staff Writer

The Lake Braddock boys tennis team capped its undefeated season Saturday with a 5-3 win over Langley in the Virginia 6A state championship. It was the first state title for a program that has long dominated the Patriot District but never quite been able to get over the hump in the state’s most difficult region.

Lake Braddock accomplished the feat at the expense of a Langley side that had eliminated them in the regional tournament in each of the previous three seasons. The Bruins got revenge with a 6-2 regional championship victory against the Saxons, but they got a stiffer challenge from their regional foes on Saturday.

“I was worried. [Langley is] a fantastic team,” said Lake Braddock coach Bill Hughes, now in his eighth season at the helm. “They’re a fantastic team every year; they always have great players. They’re not just going to sit there and let you take them out. We knew it wouldn’t be as smooth as the regional final.”

Lake Braddock swept the top three singles flights, as Jacob Daugherty, Alex Nesterovich and Eric Yoo each won in straight sets. But Langley’s Hammy Abuhamda, Nick Smoyer and Will Pilkinton took the next three singles matches, evening the match going into doubles. Nesterovich and Yoo got the job done at No. 2 doubles, leaving the Bruins one point away from victory with Nick O’Connor and Scott Belcher on the court in the No. 3 slot.

O’Connor and Belcher split their first two sets with Langley, bringing the No. 1 doubles partners from each team onto an adjacent court to warm up. Lake Braddock senior Long Huynh sat out that match with leg cramps, which forced sophomore Dominik Renteria — the team’s No. 7 singles player — to sub in alongside Daugherty, forming a pair that had never played together before.

Daugherty and Renteria trailed in the first set, but they wouldn’t need to go any further, as O’Connor and Belcher emerged with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory to clinch the title at Jefferson District Park in Falls Church.

“It’s what you dream about as a coach,” Hughes said. “To have such incredible players do it, such incredible people, it’s great. I feel like we’ve been building and building towards it each year. To see them finally break through and do it in this fashion is amazing.”

Leading the breakthrough was Daugherty, who beat Oakton’s Adrien Bouchet for the regional singles title before falling to Bouchet in last week’s state singles championship. Daugherty, a Colgate commit, moved to the area from Texas last July for his senior year.

“Coming in I had no idea what to expect,” he said. “As I got to know everyone I realized [a state championship] was possible and that was the goal. I’m really happy that I happened to choose Lake Braddock.”

The Oakton girls’ bid for an undefeated season fell just short earlier in the day, when they lost to Cox, 5-3, in the 6A state girls championship. Senior Cornell commit Lizzie Stewart swept her singles and doubles matches to finish her two-year career at Oakton with an undefeated record. Sophomore Lindsey Le, Stewart’s doubles partner, won her singles match 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 2 spot to give the Cougars their other win.

Though they graduate four senior starters this year, the Cougars believe they’ll have another shot at the state title next season. A solid freshman class is expected to come through the ranks, as rising senior Ashley Thai’s little sister, Victoria, and Katie Clark’s younger sister, Annie, could make an immediate impact.

“Next year I think we can do it,” junior Alekhya Nanduri said. “We have some new players coming in. Each year we keep going up one, so hopefully next year we can get it done.”

Stewart was disappointed to come up just short in her ultimate goal of helping Oakton win its first state title as a team, but she offered no regrets looking back.

“It’s just the whole team environment. It’s a lot of fun,” Stewart said. “I would much rather play high school tennis than not because I feel like the girls that don’t do it miss out on an experience that they’re not going to get until college.”

The Jefferson boys completed their undefeated season and defended their state title over the weekend, coasting past Deep Run 5-1 in the 5A state final. Mills Godwin beat Marshall 5-1 in the 5A girls championship. Marshall took down Jefferson 5-2 in the previous week’s region championship.

The original version of this story had the wrong college destination for Lake Braddock tennis player Jacob Daugherty.