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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Dominant Titans Claim Boys Title at USTA National Spring Team Championships

©Colette Lewis 2018--
Mobile, AL--

Titans (left to right): Coach Jason Kinder, Jeremie Casabon, Patrick Fletchall,
Braden Shick, Tali Jarmond, Dillon Blake, Andrew Dale
Temperatures were in the low 50s with a brisk breeze for the boys final of the USTA National Spring Team Championships, but that didn't cool off the Titans, who took a 6-1 decision over the Eagles Wednesday morning at the Mobile Tennis Center.

The Titans lost only five points in their four victories, with one of those the doubles point in their opening round match against the Raiders. That may not have been the start coach Jason Kinder wanted, but he certainly wasn't complaining about the finish.

"In the back of my head, I just wanted us to get to the top eight," said Kinder, who was not able to arrive in time for the team's practice day due to last week's storm on the East Coast.  "Getting here late, losing the doubles point, but then being able to take five of the singles in that first match, it was great to be able to get through it."

In the final, the Titans 18s doubles team of Andrew Dale and Patrick Fletchall fell quickly to Eagles Michael Sun and Maxwell McKennon 6-1, but the Titans had earned early breaks in the 14s and 16s doubles, which are one set, no-ad, with a tiebreaker at 5-all.  Titans 16s Jeremie Casabon and Dillon Blake defeated Graydon Lair and Riley Odell 6-2 to even the score and Braden Shick and Tali Jarmond clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 win over John Lasanajak and Alexander Chang in the 14s.

The Eagles had lost the doubles point in their 4-3 win over the Seahawks in the semifinals, but they could only win three first sets in singles against the Titans and were unable to quickly pull even, as they had on Tuesday. 

Casabon made it 2-0 for the Titans with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Lair at No. 1 16s, and Shick followed shortly thereafter with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Lasanajak at No. 1 14s, making it 3-0 Titans. 

Titans No. 1 18s Fletchall had earned a split with Sun and was serving for the match at 5-4 in the third, a win that would have clinched the match for his team, but Sun, the hero for the Eagles in the semifinals, broke back for 5-5 and broke again for a 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 victory, making the score 3-1.

The Eagles were unable to hold on to the other two leads they had, with Dale forcing a third set from McKennon at No. 2 18s and Blake getting to a third against Odell at No. 2 16s.  The third match remaining on court was still in the second set, with the Eagles Chang hoping to force a split with Jarmond at No. 2 14s, but it was Jarmond who got the late break and he served out the match and the Titans title 7-5, 7-5.

Both Blake and Dale kept their perfect singles records intact by earning come-from-behind victories, with Blake beating Odell 5-7, 6-3, 6-0 and Dale defeating McKennon in the battle of left-handers 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.

They joined Casabon and Shick, who also went undefeated in singles play throughout the tournament, leaving Kinder unable to choose his most valuable player.

"All the kids worked," said Kinder, Director of Tennis at ACAC
Fitness and Wellness in Midlothian Virginia. "No matter if it was my No. 1 guy in 18s or my No. 2 guy in 14s, it didn't matter. They were all working so hard to try to get a result. They're all great players, and I just knew as long as they stayed out there, we'd have a shot to win."

Kinder, who was participating in this event for the first time, but has coached junior teams for the Mid-Atlantic section, said his own contribution depends on keeping his perspective.

"I just tried to stay quiet and stay focused on coaching the kids," Kinder said. "Not get too wrapped up in the potential results and trying to predetermine the outcome. As a coach, I just wanted to stay focused on them, help them when they needed help and be quiet when they needed me to be quiet. Sometimes you just pat them on the back and walk away."

Dale said the Titans were a cohesive unit from the beginning.

"The first practice with them was great and we kind of clicked immediately," said the 16-year-old from Leesburg Virginia, who was playing in the tournament for the second time. "It was just great. I knew, whatever happened in the tournament, that we'd be a close team and always be at each others' side. That was what I thought was one of the best qualities about my team."

Eagles coach Ron Dyson, whose team had fashioned three consecutive 4-3 victories to reach the final, praised the Titans' performance.

"It was a tough one this time, but all and all it was a great tournament for the kids," said Dyson, who coaches in Rochester New York. "The Titans were good today, they were the better team today."

In the third place match, the Broncos defeated the Seahawks 4-3.

The Sportsmanship and Team Spirit awards were announced this afternoon, with Marcus McDaniel of the Seahawks and the Buccaneers named the boys winners.  Last night at the girls closing ceremony, the Ninjas received the Team Spirit award and Katherine Nguyen of the Blue Jays received the Sportsmanship award.