Arnav Damodhar | Staff Writer
After earning a 18-0 record, the Mason girl’s tennis team was undefeated until it really counted: the state qualifying match. But despite this loss, four girls are still competing for the State Championship title, something their team wasn’t able to earn this year.
According to junior Lizzy Kong, the girls had a fantastic opportunity to compete at the State Tournament as a team, but the severe mental pressure hindered her from performing well.
“We all know that excuses will always be there for us,” Kong said. “Opportunity won’t. And this year we had a very strong opportunity to go to state. I knew we could beat Sycamore, I knew we were expected to go to state, I knew I was expected to win, but when the match was 2-2 and it all came down to me, I ended it (lost the match).”
Lizzy Kong serving the ball in a scrimmage against her teammates. Photo by Staff Writer Blake Nissen.
Prior to the match, according to junior Sneha Kandi, the girls had a fantastic season. They beat some of the best teams in the state and won the Greater Miami Championship title, Kandi said.
“I think this has been one of the best seasons that the girls’ tennis team has even had,” Kandi said. “We won the Coaches Classic, the GMC’s, and we even had an undefeated season.”
The top doubles team for Mason during regular season consisted of Kandi and junior Isabel Cepeda while the top players were Kong and Amanda Huser who came back this season from being homeschooled the previous year to focus on tennis. When the team lost in the state qualifying match, Huser and Kong created the second doubles team to compete individually at the Sectional and District Tournaments. According to Kandi, even after their loss, the girls are still powering through.
“We did really well in sectionals considering that Lizzy Kong and Amanda Huser won the entire tournament and Isabel Cepeda and I were seeded fourth,” Kandi said. “We performed really well at districts. Lizzy and Amanda were District Champions. Isabel and I seeded third. We just hope to do well at state. ”
Isabel Cepeda performing her serve in practice before districts. Photo by Blake Nissen.
After winning districts, both the doubles teams qualified for state on October 15. According to Cepeda the loss made them learn a lesson; it made the girls realize that just because Mason is the best, doesn’t mean they can’t be stopped.
“Our loss against Sycamore has definitely made the team stronger because it humbled us,” Cepeda said. “Before that match, I guess most of us assumed we were going to win since we’ve beat them twice before. After losing that match we all learned that just because we’re the number one team in the state doesn’t mean we’re unstoppable.”
According to Kong, the girls have recovered from their bitter loss against Sycamore and their minds are set clearer than ever on state.
“I am confident that we will do very well representing our district during state,” Kong said.“Hopefully we will at least make the final four at state. Of course everyone there is looking to win it; we hope to come out on top. After our heart wrenching loss that caused us to fall short of going to team state, we are ever so determined to win individually. Because now, while that loss was painful, it will not drag us down. Better starts now. Better starts now.”