Jesuit boys tennis continues reign, wins 6A state title
The mob of pro-Jesuit patrons flooded the Tualatin Hills Center domed floor, washing Peter Murphy in a sea of black, green and gold cladded colors.
The cluster ran 25 deep, mixing Crusader boys tennis teammates, fans and classmates together in enraptured celebration, christening another year of a Ming-like dynasty that doesn't see an end in sight. Jesuit is again the undisputed best program in the state, getting a third straight singles Class 6A state title from Murphy and a second consecutive doubles crown from Tommy Kallgren and Jaden D'Abreo to outscore Lincoln 35-27 at the 6A state championships on May 18.
"We all came together really well," Murphy said. "We bonded as a group and you saw that here with everybody cheering. There was never a quiet moment after a point, usually. Even off the court when nobody's playing, we're hanging out. It's a great group to be around. You know you have 25 or 26 guys that have your back. Even if I didn't perform as well as I wanted to, they'd still care for me the same way they do right now. It takes the pressure off of you."
It was Jesuit's third straight 6A title and 10th in 11 years, a remarkable run under head coach Jeff Wood.
"I think he's the best high school coach in the nation," D'Abreo said. "I've grown so much as a player just through him. He knows how to work with the kids, knows how to share what they're doing wrong in such a great manner. He has so much experience. I couldn't ask for a better coach, better teammates, a better program. Jesuit is the place to be for high school tennis. We're all one family and bond so well."
An ever-present observer behind the chain link fence, Wood is an ally who his players love both for his dedication and ability to push their improvement. He's created almost a fraternity amongst players whether they're former, current or future Crusaders.
"He's definitely led us to this," Murphy said. "He's such a great coach. Even talking to me in between the game, he's so passionate and wants me to do well. He has a great insight into the game that helps all of us."
"The people in the program and being a part of this is more important in my life than just winning state championships," Kallgren said. "(Wood) has been one of the most influential mentors in my life. He knows high school tennis inside and out. And he goes beyond the court. He's helped us in life in so many ways, like how to work through adversity. In crazy moments he's there letting us know what's important. He's able to keep us calm and battle through adversity. That's something I can work with the rest of my life. He's been the best."
Fueling the Jesuit finalists was a relatively big group of Crusader faithful: close friends, teammates and students who drove over to THRPD to support their friends on the state stage. The call to arms came from the phones of Jesuit's dynamic duo, who went to social media after winning their semifinal match, asking for a large Crusader presence. Situated in the stands just above the court, the boisterous throng, led by former firecracker boys soccer goalie Nolan Aylward and others, gave Kallgren and D'Abreo a huge boost as their match with Lincoln's Daniel Luo and James Chen went to three sets.
"I don't think we could've done this without our crowd," D'Abreo said. "I can't thank our team and everyone that showed up enough. It was just so fun. I've never played in a match like that with so much energy. We knew it was going to be a dogfight, so we needed all the support we could get. We got more than we ever could ask for and it pushed us through those last two sets."
The Jesuit twosome played to the crowd and fed off them, celebrating points as the assemblage roared, living in the hype of the moment, creating an atmosphere that was outdone only by the quality play on the court.
"It's amazing to just have people going wild, it's just a party out there," Kallgren said. "I loved looking over to our section and seeing them give us that positive reinforcement."
Kallgren and D'Abreo didn't play together all year-long just as they did a season ago. But the duo has an extensive collaborative history that dates back to their middle school days. The chemistry between them clicks instantaneously. Mistakes were minimized. Losses of a point didn't send either into a fit. The two have played together for so many years that the comfort level helped carry them in addition to the crowd's surges. Each is similar in style, hitting heavy serves and volleys at the net. Jesuit dropped the first set 5-7 but rebounded with 6-4, 6-4 wins to claim another doubles' title.
"I couldn't ask for a better partner," D'Abreo said. "Do it in that fashion, against Lincoln who's a bit of a rival is just great."
"Jaden knows my game better than anybody else," D'Abreo said. "He's what keeps me in the game. He lets me know what's important and pulls me through in those important parts of the match, basically coaching me. Having that there is so amazing."
Murphy emerged from the throng of well-wishers with his limbs intact, his identifiable curly hair still attached beneath a Nike headband, finally able to smile and breathe after a battle with Sprague's Judson Blair. The meek superstar cemented his status as one of the state's all-time greats, beating a foe in Blair who undoubtedly gave Murphy a run for his money. The two lithe indefatigable righties traded spectacular volleys all match long, flicking wild forehanded shots along the edges of the court, spraying lob shots to the outer limits of play, whipping crosscourt beams to the corners. Physically, Murphy is a tireless worker in the offseason who's always trying to find a way to get better, which helped big-time as the match ran on in length. Mentally, Murphy said he knew Blair wasn't going to bow down. He gave credit where credit was due, which helped him stay stable. When the rain and wind moved the end of the second set and eventually the third inside the THRPD bubble, all eyes were on Murphy and Blair as the meet's final match between the 5A and 6A levels. No problem, however. Murphy's used to the spotlight and rose to the challenge in a 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.
"(Blair) hit some insane winners and played great that first set," Murphy said. "It was just biding my time and waiting for my opportunities. I think I did a good job of seizing those. (Blair) is a great player and I knew he was going to challenge me. I just had to stick with it."
Jesuit juniors Connor and Spencer Barnett beat senior Charlie Law and Wyatt Warrington in the third-place match for the Crusaders, who sent nine athletes to the state meet. Westview finished 10th with four team points after sending senior singles players Adam Shinomiya, Andrew Vu and junior Matthew Kim to state.
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