Colonials Tennis Earn Conference Title
By David Breidenbach, Correspondent
May 16, 2014, 10:06
Austin Edwards seems to be framed in his racket on this hit back to Aaron Bellenoit during the Colonials 5-0 walk to the first Conference 25 Tennis Championships.
COLONIAL HEIGHTS—Tennis wouldn’t be tennis without at least a little controversy. So, in a sense, when Poquoson’s top seed, Sam Washburn, disputed the 6-2 score in his second set tie-breaker against Jonathan Hartson it probably shouldn’t have been too surprising.
Washburn thought the score was 3-3, before Hartson won two straight points. Hartson thought the score was 4-2 going into the points. According to Colonials Coach Mike Smielecki, if the players could not come to a resolution, then the score would revert to the last agreed upon score.
After some discussion, Hartson yielded and agreed to a 5-3 score. He followed the mini-break with an ace to make the score 6-3, and ended the two-set endurance test on the following point off Washburn’s serve for a 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) come-from-behind victory. Hartson’s hard-fought win propelled the Colonials to a 5-0 victory in the first ever Conference 25 Tennis Championship.
“He says he called it 3-3, but I didn’t hear him or I would have corrected him. Just to settle the dispute I gave into him. I have enough confidence in my game that I could finish it off regardless of what we decided. I figured it would pay off,” Hartson said.
The win boosts the Colonials record to 13-1, and drops Poquoson to 7-5.
Meanwhile the rest of the team was in domination mode, led by two seed Yaser Qazi. The lanky and long-armed Qazi was particularly sharp in his two seed match against Tyler Moore. Knowing that Hartson was in a battle, Qazi wanted to set the tone for his fellow teammates by taking care of business on court.
He did so in stunning fashion, knocking off Moore in straight sets 6-0, 6-0. During the round, Qazi’s ground strokes were superb rippers barely clearing the top of the net. As he moved Moore around the court, Qazi continued to hit sharp return after sharp return, closing out his match in record time.
“I wanted to give our team confidence because the last time we played them it was 7-2. And they had just beat York, who had beaten us. My win gave the whole team confidence to push through their matches,” Qazi said.
And push they did. While Hartson and Washburn locked horns in a Battle Royale on court 1, Qazi, Kevin Napier, Blake Cox, Austin Edwards, and Josh Kim were doing their best to ease the pressure on Hartson, their leader.
Napier, the three seed, battled Trace Cruz through his first set for a 7-5 win. According to coach Smielecki, Cruz was prepared for Napier’s play in this match. But after struggling through for the first set win, Napier went on cruise control for the second set at 6-0.
Meanwhile, Cox was drilling serves on the number four court against Jay Brooks. Cox handled Brooks pretty easily, coming away with a 6-2, 6-2, win that put the Colonials ahead 3-0 with Hartson still fighting on the number one court.
Enter Austin Edwards at number five. Edwards was masterful in controlling the points against Aaron Bellenoit, coming away with a 6-2, 6-0 win. And Hartson and Washburn were still toe-to-toe, with Hartson falling behind early in the second set, 0-3.
That gave the Colonials’ six seed, Josh Kim, a chance to take to the court against Poquoson’s Tuan Nguyen. Kim had a 6-1, 1-1 lead in the match when Hartson finally broke through on the tie breaker to win the first seed match and end the tournament at 5-0.
Colonial Heights Conference 25 Tennis Tournament Champions, six seeds in front from left: Jonathan Hartson, Yaser Qazi, Kevin Napier, Blake Cox, Austin Edwards, and Josh Kim.
“That was what we were looking for. Qazi’s match set the tone because after that, Kevin had a tough match, but as the match wore on the kid began to get worn out. After that we were rolling right through. We are looking forward to running through regionals, but James Monroe will be the challenge they are always good,” Smielecki said.
It has been more than a decade since the Colonials Tennis team has met with such success, he said. The last team to win a district championship was either 96 or 97. By far, it’s the best team Smielecki has coached in his 10-years at the helm, both in the sense of playing and in finishing.
Winning the championship is the first step along the path. The team is playing for a bigger goal; however, according to Smielecki. Despite this huge victory, the team really wanted a chance to play against York, the second seed and only blemish on the Colonials’ 12-1 record. But Poquoson was able to wrest a 5-4 victory on Wednesday in the other semifinal that included two tie breakers.
“The guys wanted York, but Poquoson upset them in the semifinals. This is the best we have finished since ’96 or ’97, when we had a Central District Boys Championship. Bob (athletic director Bob Rose) is going to hang a Conference 25 banner up there for us,” Smielecki said.
Conference 25 Finals #1 seed Colonial Heights 5, #3 seed Poquoson 0 Singles: Jonathan Hartson d. Sam Washburn 6-1, 6-6 (7-3); Yaser Qazi d. Tyler Moore 6-0, 6-0; Kevin Napier d. Trace Cruz 7-5, 6-0; Blake Cox d. Jay Brooks 6-2, 6-2; Austin Edwards d. Aaron Bellenoit 6-2, 6-0 Records: Colonial Heights 13-1, Poquoson 7-5
Conference 25 Tournament Semi-Finals #1 seed Colonial Heights 5, #4 seed Lafayette 1 Singles: Hartson (CH) d. Fairbanks 6-2, 6-0; Qazi (CH) d. Gilliam 6-4, 6- 0; Napier (CH) d. Harding 6-1, 6-2; Cox (CH) d. Deane 6-2, 6-1; Hurt (L) d. Edwards 6-2, 6-2; Kim (CH) d. Ribble 6-3, 6-3 Records: Colonial Heights 12-1, Lafayette 6-7
#3 seed Poquoson 5, #2 York 4
Singles: Washburn (P) d. E. Buck 6-2, 6-0; Moore (P) d. W. Buck 6-2, 6-2; McFadden (Y) d. Cruz 7-5, 6-4; Brooks (P) d. Moulton 6-2, 7-5; Liu (Y) d. Bellenoit 6-4, 6-0; Nguyen (P) d. Mollenkamp 4-6, 6-4, 1-0 (10-8). Doubles: Buck-Buck d. Washburn-Bellenoit 8-4; Moore-Cruz d. Mollenkamp-Moulton 9-8 (8-6); McFadden-Liu d. Brooks-Nguyen 8-3.