Straus Set Collegiate Standard for Winning, Character
By John Packett, RTA Contributing Writer
From the time he stepped on the court as an eighth-grader at Collegiate in Prep League competition until his final match in May, Brady Straus never lost to anyone in the private-school league, which includes some pretty formidable opposition.
The final two seasons of that amazing five-year run came when Straus was the Cougars’ No. 1 singles player.
Even though it is a remarkable achievement, the unbeaten streak is not what Straus considers his biggest accomplishment.
Since Straus joined the top six, Collegiate has won five consecutive Prep League championships. Prior to that, the Cougars had never won even one league crown. For good measure, Collegiate added back-to-back Virginia Independent Schools state titles in 2009-10.
“That’s what I’m most proud of,” said Straus. “We hadn’t won for so many years and we were the last Collegiate sport to not win at least one Prep League title. We won it my first year and we’ve continued to win. We’ve won two state championships in that time also.
“In terms of accomplishments, not individually but as a team, is what I’m most proud of.”
That statement probably defines Straus’ illustrious career at Collegiate better than anything.
“Brady is the epitome of character and a team player,” said Collegiate coach Chris Conquest. “It’s so overused, I know, but he always put the team in front of himself. He never lets you know that he’s hurting. I’m just at a loss for words to describe him.”
As if the pressure of staying unbeaten wasn’t enough, Straus had to deal with the sudden death of his father, Raymond, to a heart attack at the beginning of his freshman season. Assistant coach Wes Atiyeh helped him during that period.
“Wes was like a second dad to me for much of my high school time,” said Straus. “I can’t even put into words how much he meant and how much he helped me through some of those terrible days and bad matches.”
Another factor about the unbeaten record is that Straus never gave up his other passion, soccer, to concentrate on tennis. Playing for the Cougars in the fall certainly took time away from the court, when he could have been improving his game.
“The soccer experience is more about the team than anything,” said Straus, who is heading to the University of Virginia in the fall. “That’s what I loved about it so much. You have 20 guys that are all playing for each other in such a physical sport.
“I think it might have taken away some of the development I could have had by taking such long stretches off [from tennis] and taking months to get back into it. But I don’t think it took away from me mentally or how much I love my tennis team.
“Soccer got me in such good shape for tennis, and the weight room was so much more intense. No regrets about that at all.”
Straus played No. 3 singles as an eighth-grader, moved up to No. 2 behind Max Schnur as a freshman and took over the top spot his final two years when Schnur left for Columbia. Straus lost only three matches overall but none in the Prep League.
“I definitely knew but I didn’t really think about it much,” he said. “I didn’t think it was a huge deal. I just focused on each match and tried to get the point. It wasn’t like I was thinking during the match about having to win this match to keep the record.
“I just wanted to win and get another point for the team. But it’s definitely a proud accomplishment.”
Yet another example of how Straus thinks more about other people than himself came when he took a recent service trip to Costa Rica with his schoolmates to teach lacrosse to kids in a remote beach village.
“We brought different equipment for them to use and play with,” said Straus, who isn’t a lacrosse player himself but traveled with others who play the sport. “Basically, all I needed to do was throw and catch, so I thought I could handle that.
“It was a really good experience. It’s a lot different from what I usually do in everyday life. Being in a poor town and really having nothing to do but play with the kids and sort of enjoying everyone who was there.”
Straus will be leaving for college soon, but his legacy at Collegiate will live long after he’s gone.
“To me, Brady has really set the standard for the type of character, the type of person, he is,” said Conquest. “Max put us on the map but Brady has kept us there. He kept the whole thing going. We’re going to miss him.”
Several other seniors made their mark on the local high-school scene this spring.
Brett Moorhead, Cosby’s No. 1 player, helped the Titans reach the Central Region team final and Group AAA semifinals before capturing the state singles championship for the second straight year. Moorhead is going to James Madison.
Moorhead’s schoolmate, Lauren Denuel, the No. 1 player for the girls’ team, won her first Central Region singles title and made the state final before losing. Denuel is heading to South Carolina to pursue a nursing degree.
Abigail Randolph and Brittany Hsieh played key roles in Mills Godwin’s run to the school’s 10th Group AAA state girls’ crown. Randolph was the Eagles’ No. 1 player and Hsieh played No. 4. Randolph is going to Methodist (N.C.) University and Hsieh to U.Va.
Last but not least, Jake Gore helped Midlothian capture the Central Region boys’ team championship and advance to the semifinals of the state tournament. Gore, who played No. 2 singles, is also heading to Virginia.