Valley Catholic senior tennis star breaks through state glass ceiling

COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR - Valley Catholic senior Matt Biggi won the 4A singles state championship on Saturday at the Oregon State Tennis Center.

To become a state champion, Matt Biggi first had to learn how survive failure.

For three seasons, the Valley Catholic boys tennis singles star steered through his respective state tournaments, first at the Class 3A level and then at 4A Each year, Biggi learned something new: how to handle the big crowds during a high-stakes match, how to craft a new shot, how to rein in a serve.

Yet, each season ended the same: contending for a state crown but never capturing his sport’s biggest prize.

This spring, however, after three years of heartbreak, Biggi had his breakthrough.

With the weight of expectation on his shoulders, the Valiant senior played some his best tennis, beating North Marion’s Ethan Berkeley 6-2, 6-1 in the Class 4A state championship singles match at the Oregon State Tennis Complex on Saturday.

“Part of me felt relieved, like, after four years, I finally did it,” said Biggi. “It was a great feeling. It didn’t really sink in on me until about 30 minutes after the match when I was like, ‘Wow. I am a state title winner.’ It was incredible, just a great way to go out in my last high school match.”

Biggi said he realized the kind of mettle it takes to win a state title during his freshman year. All three of Biggi’s state matches back in 2013 were grueling three-set bouts, each lasting at least three hours.

The crowd, other than Valley Catholic’s Blue Crew and Biggi’s personal supporters, was mostly against him. As a sophomore, Biggi was the second-ranked player at the state tournament, yet bowed out in the semifinals.

And last year, Biggi went undefeated through the regular season, but lost both in the district and state championship matches.

COURTESY PHOTO: BARBARA KERR - Valley Catholic senior Matt Biggi and Valley tennis director Jim Martin discuss strategy during the 4A state tournament last week.

That empty feeling of giving everything he had with nothing to show for it ate at Biggi for a full season, but it also opened his eyes to what it takes to be a champion.

“I learned how to break through that and became a lot tougher,” said Biggi. “Ultimately, I learned it’s only one game. Come district and state, it’s how you handle things. You control what you can control. I learned a lot from that, being able to handle those pressure situations really well and block out what’s at stake.”

Biggi was the No. 1 seed at this year’s state tourney, the main target for the rest of the tournament’s field.

The pressure to perform was present. Yet, after years of battling and scrapping for supremacy, Biggi went in loose, content with whatever was about to unfold and beat his first three opponents with relative ease, including a 6-2, 6-0 win over Catlin Gabel junior Coleman Sherry in the semifinals.

Biggi slowly worked his way into the state title match, after not playing Berkeley in more than a year. Biggi was able to hold serve and maintain a lead, keeping Berkley on the move along the back line, and hitting angled shots across court and down the line set up by his suffocating forehand shots.

“That was pretty much my main weapon,” said Biggi. “That’s how I was able to dictate the pace.”

Biggi will play tennis for George Fox University next year where he’ll study engineering. Biggi said he hopes to improve his fitness and rise up the Bruins’ tennis ladder early in his career.

“It’s going to be tough and there are going to be a lot of tough matches, but I’m totally up for it,” said Biggi. “George Fox is a good team, and I’m just really excited to be a part of a really good program. I can’t wait.”

Biggi’s first place coupled with Emilio Jacinto and Kristian Peev reaching the 4A doubles semifinals gave Valley third place overall as a team.

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