Make no mistake: That initial state title will always be a special one to Max Manthou.
But the second boys singles crown for the Kentwood High sophomore tennis star also felt mighty satisfying.
“My first one is the coolest, because I was coming in as a freshman. I don’t want to say this one isn’t as special,” Manthou remarked after grinding out a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Juanita junior James Russell in the Class 4A finals at the Vancouver Tennis Center. “I’m always confident, and I was pretty in control (of the match).”
While Manthou was doing the expected and locking up the gold medallion in boys singles, fellow sophomore Matt Overland of Kentridge was doing the unexpected and bring home the bronze.
Overland, whose game has grown significantly at the halfway point of his high school career, won his first two matches on Friday, fell to Manthou in Saturday’s semifinals, then won the first five games of the third-place match against Puyallup senior Scott Sullivan before Sullivan had to retire for the day because of cramping.
“I was hoping I would get at least sixth, but I got third – that’s crazy, man,” said Overland, whose ebullience endeared him to many people who didn’t even know him – and also won him one of the daily sportsmanship awards.
Added Kentridge coach Bob Armstrong, “He was outstanding – he performed to his absolute capacity. And I think a lot of people really enjoyed his enthusiasm.”
It didn’t go quite as well for the Chargers’ senior doubles team of Zack AhYat and Luyang Gai. With their sights set on a title after back-to-back runner-up finishes, AhYat and Gai saw those hopes vaporize right away with a first-round loss on Friday to Mead’s Ethan Burns and Ethan Vaughn, 6-3, 6-4.
They came back with three straight victories on the consolation side before running into the Mead pair again in the match for fourth and sixth places. Again, the Panthers prevailed, 6-2, 6-4, although the Chargers rallied from a 5-1 second-set deficit to make it 5-4, fighting off six match points in the process before clinching it on the seventh try.
Even so, AhYat and Gai’s sixth-place finish, plus Overland’s third place, gave Kentridge 15 points and the second-place team trophy, one point behind champion Bellarmine Prep. Overland, plus sophomore doubles qualifiers Vineeth Omkaram and Paul Yi, who were eliminated in two straight on Friday, are expected to return next season.
“We were two points from (taking) first place – we gave it our best shot,” Armstrong said. “We had some close matches, and we also sowed some seeds that will pay off next year. We have three sophomores, and we’re looking forward to those kids next season. They know who we are.”
When Manthou stepped across the net from Russell for the singles final, he was facing an opponent who wasn’t exactly on anyone’s radar screen coming into the tournament. Russell played doubles at state last year, winning one of three matches with partner Victor Yang before exiting.
But to Kentwood coach Ingrid Bakke, it didn’t matter who Manthou was playing in the final.
A title is a title.
“They’re all going to be special,” Bakke said. “The first one was so exciting and new because he had never experienced high school tennis. This one was, because once you’ve won one, you’re the target. And for him to play well throughout the tournament like he did … On the changeover (after the first set), I said to him, ‘How’s your serve?’ and he said, ‘It’s great!’ For him to say that is just great.”
After breezing through his first two matches during Friday’s rain-hampered first day of play – 6-0, 6-0 against Clint Vidano of Wenatchee, and 6-1, 6-0 against Richard Oam of Jackson – Manthou came up against a pair of hard hitters on Saturday, the first of whom was friendly rival Overland in the semis.
Overland, who also played Manthou in a West Central District quarterfinal last week (Manthou won that one, 6-0, 6-0), was looking forward to the rematch after winning his first two on Friday at state – 6-4, 5-7, 10-7 in a super tiebreaker against Richland’s Troy Zuroske in the first round, then 6-3, 6-2 against Roosevelt’s Stephen Perkins in the quarterfinals.
“I’ve got to give him what I’m made out of and see what happens,” Overland said after his two Friday contests.
Manthou prevailed, 6-3, 6-1, splitting the first four games of the match before winning 10 of the final 12.
“Matt played phenomenal,” Manthou said. “I played really well against Matt, but he played well, too.”
Unheralded though he was, Russell quickly proved himself worthy of a spot in the finals. He opened the match with a love service game before Manthou ran off three straight. Russell got one back to make it 3-2, then Manthou took the last three to close out the set, winning the last seven points.
The second set started off in almost identical fashion – the first game to Russell on his serve, the next three to Manthou, Russell closing to 3-2, and Manthou holding serve to make it 4-2.
But Russell wasn’t done. He held serve, getting within 4-3, then broke Manthou’s serve for the only time in the match, making it 4-all. Manthou broke back for a 5-4 lead, then finished fast with a love service game, drilling a forehand that skipped past Russell’s outstretched racket, delivering back-to-back first-service winners, and then, on match point, watching a Russell backhand sail long.
Lob shots: Kentridge’s senior girls doubles team of Anna McIntosh and Chelsey White came within one set of a medal. After going down 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 in their first-rounder on Friday against Wenatchee’s Tatiana Wood and Amy Scheumann, the Chargers won two straight on the consolation side, putting them into the consol semis against Mead’s Britta Stime and Katrina Stime. McIntosh and White won the first set, 6-2, but the Panther pair took the next two sets, 6-2, 6-2, and ultimiately went home with the fourth-place medal.