At long last
Sabedra, Raiders claim SMAC tennis tournament title
Leonardtown first-year head coach Derek Sabedra’s rollercoaster of emotions on Wednesday finally, mercifully ended with elation following the Raiders’ Southern Maryland Athletic Conference tennis tournament title at St. Charles High School in Waldorf.
The Raiders won all three of its championship matches and edged out Huntingtown 12-11 for the team title. The championship was Sabedra’s first in 18 years of coaching SMAC tennis.
“I’m elated, but the thing is it’s the players,” said Sabedra, whose three match championships were also a career high. “I’m loving life right now.”
But Leonardtown certainly didn’t cruise to the win as it was tied with the Hurricanes in points with both teams’ mixed doubles squads facing off in a winner-take-all match.
“It was killing me,” Sabedra said, “but I had to leave. I couldn’t watch.”
Playing just their third match together, 10th-seeded Nolan Daugherty and Alexia Gorman earned a 6-3, 6-3 win over Huntingtown’s Brody White and Claudia Otchere to clinch the crown.
“We knew it was going to be a tough match, so
we just came out confident and really knowing we could do it and that we had to play our best,” Gorman said. “I’ve been playing against Brody for forever, so I know he has an incredible backhand. We really needed to stay aggressive at the net, be smart and always being ready.”
“I had a great time and didn’t feel as much pressure as I usually do, so I think I played better,” Daugherty said.
Daugherty was originally going to play with Michelle Hoang, but she suffered a knee injury April 30 in the Raiders’ regular season match against Huntingtown, which was a battle of unbeaten teams won 6-3 by the Hurricanes.
“I called Alexia and she was in on it and I told Nolan I was putting Alexia in there and he said, ‘Yeah,’” Sabedra said. “They hit it off and now they’re both champions.”
Leonardtown’s top-seed- ed Belén Sanchez, who moved to Maryland last fall from Spain, added a 6-3, 6-3 girls singles win over Katie White of Huntingtown.
“I was afraid of this match because I lost to her [during the season] and she was my only loss, so it was tough but I had confidence today,” Sanchez said of White, the third seed. “I didn’t have it when I played her [previously], but I just wanted it so much and so many players on the team gave a lot of confidence to me. I knew I could do it.”
Sabedra experienced fear — he refused to move an inch and instructed a bystander not to move as well — during the boys doubles final when Leonardtown’s Trey Gladwell and Andy Hor lost the first set and trailed 4-3 in the second, before earning a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 win.
“We love to scare ourselves and give up games we shouldn’t give up, and they took advantage of us and played a great first set,” Gladwell said of Northern’s Cully Col- gan and Reece Remington. “The second set they broke me, but we got it together and came back. I never count us out.”
Hor added: “I know from playing them earlier in the season they’re good competition and they will hit the ball back as hard as they can every time. Today, they did a wonderful job and both [teams] had to fight for each point and that we had to pull it together.”
In girls doubles, Great Mills’ Samantha Chan and Erikah Dozier won their third straight championship following a 7-5, 6-2 win over top-seeded Sydney Nader and Hannah Kennerly of Huntingtown.
“I’m really excited,” Chan said. “I think that we played our best and Huntingtown was definitely tough and they played great. In the beginning I think we were playing too comfortable instead of just hitting normal.”
“Our serves started getting in,” Dozier said, “and we started playing more consistent.”
Leonardtown head coach Derek Sabedra embraces his mixed doubles team of Nolan Daugherty, left, and Alexia Gorman after the duo clinched the SMAC tennis tournament team title for the Raiders on Wednesday at St. Charles High School. At left is...