SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — For the Thomas Jefferson Cavaliers, the first and only setback of the 2021 campaign came in the season’s grand finale.
Priory defeated Thomas Jefferson 5-0 in the championship match of the MSHSAA Class 2 State Tennis Tournament on Saturday at the Cooper Tennis Complex.
“It would be nice to go out on top, but if you’re going to lose, this is where you want to do it,” Cavaliers coach Tom Brumfield said. “There are no losers here today. We wanted to win yesterday pretty bad to get to this spot. We’ve shown improvements since the last time we were here (2019) and we’re in a bigger class on top of that. I can’t complain about today. The kids came out and competed, and that’s all we wanted them to do.
“All we ask for is for them to come out and compete hard,” Brumfield added. “That’s what they did. They competed on every point, they didn’t give in and they made Priory win it.”
For the Cavaliers, there was no shame in losing to a talented squad like the Ravens (12-1), who featured state champions in both singles and doubles from last week’s individual state tourney.
Thomas Jefferson finished the season with a record of 15-1 and as the state runner-up.
“This season has been a great experience,” Thomas Jefferson junior Ian Ding said. “It’s been really fun playing with this group of guys. Even though we didn’t finish exactly how we wanted, it’s still been an extremely enjoyable ride.”
On another chilly day outdoors, St. Louis-based Priory won all three doubles matches to start the dual against the Cavaliers, who were seeking their first state title since 2007.
Preston Achter and Evan Finnie edged Noah Hamlett and Tyler Brouhard 8-6.
Last week’s state doubles champs, Sean Finnie and Christian Djavaherian topped Ding and Hari Nagarajan 8-3.
Last week’s state doubles runner-up, John Newell and Peter Khoukaz defeated Christopher Wheelen and Prithvi Nagarajan 8-1.
The match ended when the Ravens recorded two wins in singles.
Khoukaz beat Wheelen 6-3, 6-1.
Achter, who won the state title in singles, defeated Ding 6-2, 6-1.
Hamlett and Wheelen are Thomas Jefferson’s lone seniors.
“We’re going to miss Noah and Chris,” Brumfield said. “They’ve been with the program for four years.”
The Cavaliers will return plenty of state experience.
Like Ding, Hari Nagarajan is a junior, while Brouhard is a sophomore and Prithvi Nagarajan is just a freshman.
“This experience is going to help us a lot,” Ding said of the state trip. “We’ll be used to playing in this kind of atmosphere.”
Brumfield noted his returning players already have their sights on a return trip to state next spring.
“I’m excited about that,” Brumfield said. “And we have some young kids that look really good. We’ll have Ian back in that top spot, and hopefully some of the other guys will step up.”
Simply put, it was a season to remember for the Cavaliers.
In addition to the runner-up team finish, Ding finished fourth in singles at last week’s individual state tourney, while Hamlett and Brouhard took sixth in the state in doubles.
Brumfield noted Saturday’s loss didn’t dampen the team’s successful season.
“Every group is different,” Brumfield said. “They’re a special group. They have their own distinction. One thing this group has always done is get out and play. They didn’t take a summer off. That work ethic is why they’ve been successful. It’s been a joy to coach these guys. And anytime you get this far, you have to be proud.”