Cougars Motivated to Complete Rare Double

Cougars Motivated to Complete Rare Double

By John Packett

RICHMOND– For the past five years, the fortune of the boys’ tennis team at Collegiate School has fallen on hard times.

All of that changed in a two-week span in May, when Collegiate completed a rare double. The team won the Prep League tournament and the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division I championship.

Senior Dorsey Ducharme said it was special to win both titles this year.

“That was absolutely ridiculous,” Ducharme said. “It was the perfect way to end the season, with the Prep and State wins.”

The last time the Cougars won both titles was in 2010. Since then, the team had not won the VISAA crown.

The Cougars had not captured the Prep League tournament since 2013.

Collegiate had high expectations at the beginning of the season. Three of their top six players were returning.

The Cougars were picked to be preseason No. 1 in the Richmond Times-Dispatch area Top Ten poll.

Senior Scott Phillips said the team was confident coming into the season.

“I think we also had six or seven guys that were playing and practicing year-round,” Phillips said. “We don’t always have that.”

Phillips played No. 1 singles and doubles this year. His grandfather, Eddie, won the city singles championship in 1966

With Phillips and Ducharme forming a solid one-two punch, the Cougars got off to a 7-0 start in dual matches but struggled at the Woodberry Forest Invitational.

They finished nine points behind local rival St. Christopher’s.

Phillips said the loss was a pivotal part of their season.

“That was kind of a wakeup call for us,” Phillips said.

Midway through the season, the Cougars ran into more roadblocks. In a span of five matches, Collegiate lost to Norfolk Academy (5-4), Potomac School (4-3) and St. Chris (5-4) after beating the Saints 6-3 in an earlier meeting.

But the Cougars bounced back in the Prep League tournament, edging St. Chris (40-39).

Collegiate beat St. Chris in the Prep League final by a score of 40 to 39.

After finishing the regular season with a three-match winning streak, including a 5-4 decision over Norfolk Academy, Collegiate entered the VISAA tournament on its home courts as the No. 2 seed behind top-seeded Potomac.

In the quarterfinals, the Cougars dismissed St. Stephens-St. Agnes 5-2, then faced old foe St. Chris again in the semifinals.

Because of rain, the match was moved indoors at Mary Washington in Fredericksburg on May 19. Collegiate won 5-4.

Phillips fell behind 7-5 before rallying for a 10-7 verdict. The No. 3 doubles team of sophomores Daven Pandya and Mac Hester pulled out a 10-8 decision against a team that had beaten them in the two previous meetings.

The clinching point was supplied by junior Shaan Kapadia at No. 5 singles with a score of 10-4.

In the final awaited Potomac on May 20, the third team that had beaten Collegiate during the regular season. The match was played outdoors at Mary Washington.

Phillips said it was helpful to play the same teams twice.

“It definitely mattered that all the teams we lost to, we got a chance to play again,” Phillips said. “It was definitely motivating, even though we play St. Chris so many times.”

Phillips, Ducharme, Kapadia and No. 6 Charlie Willard gave the Cougars four points in singles. Willard had to come back from 2-7 down to win 11-9.

Phillips and Ducharme wrapped it up with a victory at No. 1 doubles with a score of 10-1 to make the final decision 5-2.

Phillips said he was impressed with his team’s performance.

“Everyone played so well,” Phillips said. “We thought it would be a close match either way. We were not expecting 5-2.”

The Cougars finished with a 15-3 dual-match record and a very satisfying conclusion to the season.

Head Coach Karin Whitt said her players never doubted each other.

“They kept working hard and believing in each other,” Whitt said. She led the Collegiate girls’ team to a similar double in 2009.

Whitt said it was special to see her team adjust and win both titles.

“[It] is pretty neat for a bunch of young kids,” Whitt said.