The Landon boys’ tennis team was built for success this season – even if it took the players some time to believe that they could beat some of the best teams in the area.
On paper, the Bears saw a few of their opponents as superior, but with the return of all but one starter from last year and the addition of several skilled freshmen, host Landon defeated St. Albans, 5-2, on a warm and humid Wednesday night in Bethesda to win the Interstate Athletic Conference tennis tournament and claim the IAC title outright for the first time since 2004.
Landon, IAC co-champions from 2012 to 2015, was also the regular season champion with a 5-0 mark in the conference, which included a confidence boosting 4-3 win over rival Bullis.
“The expectations were high,” first-year Coach WT Miller said. “We were aiming high, but honestly, we didn’t think we were able to beat Bullis. They, on paper, looked way too strong for all us, but these guys wanted it.”
Against the No. 3 seed and defending champion St. Albans, who reached the finals with an upset over No. 2 seed Bullis Tuesday night, the top-seeded Bears quickly stormed to a 4-0 clinching lead behind the strength of its young standouts in the lineup.
Sophomore Sachin Das, Landon’s top singles player, opened up the tournament with a 6-0, 6-1 win over St. Albans freshman Mark MacGuidwin, which was followed closely by a victory at No. 1 doubles by Bears junior Harsh Singh and senior Ben Selya.
Landon sophomore Rodrigo Pedraza then picked up a win at No. 2 singles, setting the stage for sophomore Will Sears and junior Alex Freed to seal the title at No. 2 doubles. The team’s only loss this season was to Mid-Atlantic Conference champion Potomac School.
“This year our expectations were to see how things go the first few matches and see what we could do,” Das said. “We’ve basically shown we’re at the top of our games and we can keep doing it for many more years.”
Landon also picked up a win at No. 3 singles (freshman Cyrus Rahbaran), while St. Albans claimed No. 4 singles (sophomore Landon Chin) and third-flight doubles (junior Yuki Kinoshita and freshman Mateo Rice.)
“We expected it to be tough, but we expected to win,” Pedraza said. “We knew it was going to be tough, though, and definitely it was a surprise beating Bullis [in the regular season] and St. Albans, who has really strong doubles overall. But I think everybody just wanted it very bad. We all practiced really hard. In the practices, we’d stay afterward. We expected to come and get it done.”