Overlooked in the preseason forecast and off to a 1-3 start, the Midlothian boys tennis team didn’t appear to be capable of contending for the Central Region championship and a spot in the final four of the Group AAA tournament.
“This whole year, our mantra was it’s not where you start, it’s where you finish,” said coach David Brohl.
The Trojans, with only one senior in the top six, listened intently to that advice.
After knocking off top-ranked Douglas Freeman and Dominion District rival Cosby to capture the region crown, the Trojans went one step further Tuesday when they reached the Group AAA semifinals with a 6-0 romp over Ocean Lakes at Manchester High.
“We kept that mantra going,” Brohl said. “After matches and after practices, we said the same thing. Even in the (newspaper) write-up before the region tournament started, nobody even mentioned our name. Nobody said boo about Midlo, and that’s just fine.
“It was just more motivation for the kids. Who cares about the rankings and who cares about what’s said in the paper? It’s what’s done out there. What’s the final result on the tennis courts is what matters at the end of the day.”
The Trojans (14-4) will meet Thomas Jefferson (Alexandria) in the state semis Friday at noon at Huntington Park in Newport News.
Midlothian didn’t drop a set against Ocean Lakes (13-3), the Eastern Region runner-up from Virginia Beach. Junior Jay Bradt earned the clinching point with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Naveen Iyer at No. 6 singles, a few minutes before No. 1 Tate Steinour completed his win.
The addition of Steinour and No. 3 Matthew Cousins, both freshmen, made the lineup even stronger.
“The two freshmen are extremely talented,” said senior Jake Gore. “Without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. But the key to our success is the whole team aspect. We all know when to step up when the team needs us. We all carry each other.”
Steinour played with a sore right biceps, which hindered his serve to some degree.
“My arm feels better,” said Steinour, who beat Greg Neatrour 7-5, 6-0. “From playing in the (Davenport City Junior) tournament this weekend, my motion is a lot better. I think he gave his all in the first set and he kind of ran out of gas in the second set.”
The Trojans are seeking their first state championship since 1980, which was the end of a four-year run by Midlothian.
The Cosby boys defeated Menchville 5-3. Defending state champion Brett Moorhead won at No. 1, then the Titans clinched the match by winning twice in doubles.
At Mills Godwin, the Eagles’ girls team rolled to a 5-1 triumph over Princess Anne (Virginia Beach) to set up a semifinal against Northern Region-champion Oakton on Friday at 9 a.m. at Huntington Park in Newport News.
Brittany Hsieh, who has been sidelined for three weeks with exhaustion and pneumonia, supplied the clinching point for the Eagles (19-1) with a 6-2, 6-3 decision at No. 4 singles over Avery Jucksch, coming back from 0-3 in the second set.
“She hadn’t played since before the regionals,” said coach Mark Seidenberg. “She looked like the old Brittany, really hit the ball well.”
Godwin is going after its 10th state crown and its first since 2010. Princess Anne finished 11-3.
Deep Run’s girls went to Cox (Virginia Beach) and came home with a 5-1 victory. The Wildcats dropped one singles match, but won the other four and a doubles match. The match for No. 1 Caroline Mosberg was in progress when Deep Run clinched the victory.