Not everything went Gonzaga’s way at the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference boys’ tennis championships Thursday, but that didn’t stop the Eagles from walking away with a team title.
After a strong run in the preliminary rounds, including an undefeated streak across all matches in the quarterfinals, the Eagles entered the finals at Paul VI High with a five-point lead over second-place DeMatha. But early losses put the pressure on senior Carson Foley to deliver in a No. 3 singles match against Ishaan Breinig of The Heights School.
“I was just very nervous,” Foley said. “I had to just get used to being in that match and relieving my nerves. And as I started playing more, I got more comfortable on the court, which allowed me to pull through. … It was the best feeling I’ve had in a while.”
The momentum shifted in Foley’s favor when an umpire called a pause to the match to review (and ultimately overturn) a line call. Gonzaga Coach Randy de Guzman said the brief break gave him the chance to talk to Foley and get his mind focused on the remainder of the match.ADVERTISING
“Carson was feeling the pressure,” de Guzman said. “[After] the call, everything stopped, you know, and he recovered really well and then just kind of bulldozed through the next couple of points. Definitely triggered, like some sort of energy in him and really got things going.”
It was a fitting climax to a week full of anticipation. Along with the rest of the WCAC, Gonzaga, the 2019 champions, endured
two years of canceled championships. Most of Gonzaga’s young squad had zero tournament experience, leaving it up to Foley to keep his teammates on top of their mental game despite setbacks.
“It’s the championship. Everything counts,” Foley said. “So when people get nervous in tennis, they start to get a little tight, and they swing with their arms. They’re not loose. So you make more errors, and you just feel very nervous. And that’s what we kind of felt early on. But once we got into it, we’re getting the rhythm and just getting very comfortable on the court. And that definitely led us to the win.”
DeMatha No. 1 Charles Woods captured the individual title. Woods overcame a back injury at the beginning of the season that threatened to flare up again during his matches.
“The big thing was feeling like I needed to hold back or not go 100 percent because I didn’t want to hurt myself,” Woods said. “It took a lot of mental force for me because there was a part of me that was telling me just like: ‘Oh, it’s okay. You tried your best.’ But I really wanted to win, so I fought through that.”
Gonzaga walked away from the WCAC championship with a total of 33 points and a 14-1 season record, followed by DeMatha with 25 points and Paul VI with 18. Gonzaga now pivots to the D.C. state championships.
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Photo: Gonzaga hoists the WCAC tennis trophy after a hard-fought win on Thursday. (Anne-Marie Burton)