by Aaron Garcia
For the past two seasons, the Marvin Ridge boys tennis team has been among the top Class 3A programs in the state after compiling a 25-5 combined record in 2010 and 2011. But each year, the Mavs fell to Charlotte Catholic in the state playoffs.
On May 14, the Mavs put the past behind them and beat the Cougars, 5-4, and improved their record to 18-2 on the year.
“That was something we were looking forward to,” Mavs coach Jon Golden said. “We were hoping we would see them. For (seniors) Joey (Hatala), Brett (Ward) and for Michael (Ruocco), that was big.”
The teams went into the doubles portion tied, 3-3, after the Mavs earned wins from Woody Watson, who beat Zach Sachee 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (11-9); Bobby Hatala, who downed Nick Russo 6-2, 6-4; and Ruocco, who won 6-2, 1-6, 1-0 (10-8) over Patrick Menkhaus.
In doubles, West Point recruit Joey Hatala and Cullen Kelleher rebounded from singles losses to beat Kyle Johnson and Russo, 10-8. Brett Ward also regrouped from a loss and joined Watson to beat Matthew Martinez and Sachee, 10-7, to seal the win.
As it turns out, the win over Catholic was simply the start of a big week for the Mavs, who advanced to the state dual-team finals after downing Asheville, 5-2, on May 16 in the 3A Western Regional finals.
The Mavs received wins from Joey Hatala, who beat Tito Paplawski 6-2, 6-3; Watson, who beat Julien Mercer 6-0, 6-1; Bobby Hatala, who advanced over Austin Kubitscheck 6-0, 6-2; and Ruocco, who blanked Jarrod May 6-0, 6-0.
The tandem of Bobby Hatala and Ruocco then beat Kubitscheck and May to give the Mavs their fifth point, ensuring the win over Asheville.
While it was a milestone week for the Mavs, Golden said he cautioned his team about making it the season’s crowning achievement.
“I’ve really been trying to preach to them the idea that you can’t look behind you,” said Golden. “It doesn’t matter what happened in the past – only what we do next.”
The Mavs will travel to the Burlington Tennis Center on Saturday, May 19, to face Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons in the 3A championship. It’s the Mavs’ first trip to the state finals since opening in 2007. The match begins at 10 a.m.