Weddington teammates have helped each other through the years
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Tuesday, Mar. 04, 2014

Weddington teammates have helped each other through the years

  • Five boys’ tennis players to watch

    •  George Lovitt, Marvin Ridge, Soph. – Played No. 1 as a freshman, won the conference championship and qualified for the state tournament.

    •  Avanish Madhavaram, Marvin Ridge, Soph. – Was the Mavericks’ No. 2 as a freshman, losing to Lovitt in the conference tournament finals. Also a state qualifier.

    •  Jackson Plyler, Weddington, Soph. – Finished 15-2 in singles play last year as a freshman. Ranked as the No. 32 sophomore in North Carolina.

    •  Sahil Vasa, Weddington, Jr. – Made it to the semifinals of the 3A doubles tournament with teammate Steven Denny, losing to eventual state champions from Cardinal Gibbons.

    •  Cameron Clemons, Central Academy of Technology and Arts, Sr. – CATA’s No. 1 player was undefeated last season and named conference player of the year.

Moments after “choking” in a singles match in the 2011 United States Tennis Association Junior Team Sectionals, then-eighth grader Jackson Plyler and his friend, Sahil Vasa, worked through what Plyler called a “mental breakdown” in his game.

Three years later, Vasa and Plyler sit No. 1 and 2 in Weddington High’s tennis lineup this season, bringing with them experience that belies their years.

“That team, we all became really great friends because we got so close, and (Weddington) is just like that,” Vasa said. “We’re all leaders in our own way, so we pump each other up when we’re down.”

Plyler, a sophomore, credited at least two people with helping him through his own early struggles: Vasa and personal coach John Sadri. A one-time Australian Open finalist, Sadri was ranked as high as 14th in the world in the early 1980s.

“When I’d be having trouble pushing through, he’d tell me to never give up,” Plyler said. “That was big for me.”

Plyler’s skill on the court had always stemmed from his feet. Quicker than a jackrabbit on the court, the lefty was able to extend rallies for as long as he needed to tire out an opponent.

Sadri continually worked on Plyler’s accuracy throughout the past offseason. If he could place a return in the right spot, Plyler could win the point much quicker.

“Just winning the point is as good as hitting the best shot in the world,” Plyler said, smiling. “It counts the exact same.”

It’s a lesson that Plyler (15-2 in singles play last year) learned years ago at that 2011 USTA Junior Team Sectionals in Alabama. The Weddington Racquets had just pulled out a team victory to progress to the USTA National Championships in Surprise, Ariz. Plyler, however, didn’t feel much like celebrating.

“I had just choked and thought that I couldn’t produce what I could in my first set. It started to get in my head,” he said. “(Vasa) came up to me and we talked, so he was able to say ‘We won this thing; we won this together. We’re all going to get to go to Arizona now.’ 

That was the moment, Plyler said, that the light bulb came on. Under the tutelage of Sadri, he took part in more tournaments and offseason workouts than any other player on head coach Les Kolman’s squad.

“He’s probably the most dedicated to his game year-round,” Kolman said. “I can see this year that he’s been working on making hard, driving shots that will make it easier to win points. He’s really matured a lot.”

Backing up the top of the lineup is lone senior and “grizzled veteran” Everett Haugh. Kolman will be looking to Haugh (9-7 in 2013) to provide tactical expertise for his younger teammates, while holding his own at the No. 4 spot.

Behind him is a pair of freshman brothers, William and Henry Hatt, who have also shown promise. If Kolman’s crew can provide stiff challenges throughout the lineup, they pose a real threat to local 3A rival Marvin Ridge. Plyler’s addition of a deadly serve will only strengthen a quiet confidence in the Weddington camp.

“We can give them a run for their money,” Haugh said. “We feel very confident and don’t like being called second place.”

David Thackham is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for David? Email him at thackhamd2@mailbox.winthrop.edu.

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