Players celebrate first section title since 2000
Cheering crowds followed the team as they sprinted onto the tennis courts. Hugs and cries of “Let’s go!” signified the crowning of the Fresno Christian Eagles as Valley champions. The seniors on the squad finished their career as winners and avenged their loss from the previous season.
With a final score of 5-4, the FC tennis team clinched the Valley title against the Caruthers Blue Raiders, May 7. This is the first boys title since 2000. The previous team to win, led by coach Allen Tong, won five titles in seven years, first in 1994, then a four-year stretch from 1997-2000. This period of winning became known around campus as the “Tong Dynasty”.
“As a former teacher and tennis coach at Fresno Christian,” Tong said, “I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations to Coach Foshee and to the team for earning a Valley championship. I’m sure you feel that sense of satisfaction for a job well done. I’m glad that the tradition of Valley championships in tennis has been renewed once again. Great job and go Eagles!”
FC alumnus Garrett Markarian, ‘99, played a part in the previous Valley championships from 1997-1999. He now works as an almond shaker mechanic at Top Gun Almond Farming. Markarian also helps coach the girls soccer team at Fresno Christian. Following the victory, he offers a congratulatory message to the team.
“Congratulations to the boys tennis team on your great season and for finishing it off with a hard fought win in the Valley championship,” Markarian said. “You have made the school and past tennis alumni proud of your accomplishments.”
This year’s team earned the No. 1 playoff seed, attaining home court advantage throughout the playoffs. Due to this, Fresno Christian hosted the Division V Valley championship for the second straight year.
The top four singles players took the court first. No. 1 singles player, Alex Rurik, ‘19, lost his match 4-6, 6-7, to Caruthers’ Luis Vega. After falling down 3-0 early in the second set, Rurik fought his way back to a second set tiebreaker. After reaching this opportunity, Rurik lost the deciding point.
Eagle’s No. 2 singles player, John Monke, ‘19, defeated Jordan Rodriguez with a final score of 6-1, 6-4. Monke earned the lead in his match early and never gave it up.
At No. 3, Reese Brown, ‘19, beat Caruthers’ Oscar Vega in two sets, winning the first set in a tiebreaker 7-6. Vega held a 6-1 lead in the first set tiebreaker, needing only one more point to win. However, Brown earned seven consecutive points, and held the lead the rest of the match. Brown says he realized he needed to make a crucial change when the score was 5-1.
“When I was crossing over at 5-1, I knew that I was going to have to make a difference if I wanted to come back in this set,” Brown said. “Usually I would play a more aggressive way, trying to hit winners, but I knew that if I wanted to, I would have to play safe then strike at the net when I got my opportunity.”
The Eagles’s No. 4 player, Mark Pimentel, ‘21, built up an early lead in the first set, 4-1. After a furious comeback from his opponent, Johnathan Butler, Pimentel lost the first set, 5-7. Pimentel managed to force a third-set tiebreaker after winning the second set, 6-3. In what proved to be the first of three super-tiebreakers in this championship, Pimentel won his match with a final score of 10-7.
No. 5 singles player, Braden Bell, ‘20, faced defeat early in the match, losing his first set 6-2. He later lost the second set, 6-3, to Dallas Loera. No. 6 singles player, Bryce Foshee, ‘21, lost his match to Christian Hernandez, in two sets with a score of 6-1, 6-2.
In the following podcast, coach Robert Foshee discusses the team’s win.
The Eagles and Blue Raiders were tied, three games to three games, and doubles matches would decide the championship. The Eagle’s doubles lineup featured Rurik and Monke at No. 1, Brown and Pimentel at No. 2 and Logan Lewis, ‘20, and Kyle Clem, ‘21 at No. 3. Facing them for Caruthers was Luis and Butler at No. 1, Rodriguez and Loera at No. 2 and Paul Estrada with Andres Arredondo at No. 3
Brown and Pimentel showed little desire to repeat the tiebreakers from their singles matches, and quickly wrapped up the first set with a 6-2 win. Neither team had the advantage on courts one and three, however, they finished with both first set scores even at 5-5.
Top ranked duo, Rurik and Monke, capitalized in this set and won, 7-5. After fighting to tie the set, the third doubles team won the next game to earn a 6-5 lead. The next game led to a tie once again at 6-6, bringing a tiebreaker. The campus duo lost in their tiebreaker, however, with two doubles teams up by a set, the title appeared in reach.
In the second set, Pimentel and Brown gave up not a single game, winning 6-2, 6-0. The team was now one match away from the Valley title. Rurik and Monke ended up losing their second set with a final score of 3-6.
Lewis and Clem went down early in the second set 0-3. Clem served an ace, immediately followed by a calf cramp which brought him to ground. A medical timeout gave him and Lewis a chance to regroup, and Clem and Lewis won that and the next game. Now, at 2-3, the duo found new hope of winning their match.
With momentum on their side, Lewis and Clem won four out of the next five games, enough to win the second set. Before their super-tiebreaker began, Monke and Rurik lost their second set and played through a third set tiebreaker. After rising up 8-4 in the final set, the No. 1 pair lost in their tiebreaker match, 8-10. All eyes moved to the deciding third doubles match.
Estrada and Arredondo claimed an early 4-2 lead at the first crossover. The FC duo fought the score back to 4-4 and traded points until the final crossover at 6-6. Lewis and Clem won the next three points to come one point away from achieving the season goal. With the score at 9-6, Caruthers served to keep their season alive and they won the point to fight another serve.
With the score at 9-7, the Caruthers server pounded the ball into the service square to Lewis. With a quick recovery, Lewis returned the ball on a deep cross court shot back to the server. As the ball landed at his feet, the server proceeded to lob his return. Upon this shot, the ball began to stray towards out of bounds territory. With one definitive bounce in the dark green, the boys tennis team delivered on their season long goal of bringing home a Valley title for the first time in 19 years.
— The Feather Online (@thefeather) May 8, 2019
Just like the glory days of Fresno Christian tennis, the team hopes to reshape the expectation for the team to resemble those of the Tong Dynasty. According to a March 30, 2000 Fresno Bee article written by Margaret Povilaitis, entitled Fresno Christian boys tennis team has its own dynasty. This expectation of winning was backed up by the teams performance from 1997-2000.
One of the seniors from the past championship team, Scott Kemp, ‘00, recalled in this same article the expectation that was placed upon the team during their prolonged dynasty. As the No. 2 player on the Eagles’ ladder, Kemp felt the weight of what was expected of the tennis team.
“It’s an unwritten rule that we win league and Valley,” senior Scott Kemp said. “There’s a lot of confidence when we step on the court because we haven’t experienced very many losses; there’s also pressure but we’re taking it all in stride.”
“During the last three seasons,” Povilaitis wrote. “Fresno Christian has lost just four league matches – one each in 1997 and 1998 and two last year. This season, the Eagles are off to a 7-0 start in league (8-0 overall).”
Coach Robert Foshee credits this year’s team for the victory and believes the immense preparation for this match led to a victory.
“I just thank God that we were able to be a team,” Foshee said. “It was such a team effort, a team victory, it was just amazing to see what God did through all of the boys. We knew they were going to lob the ball a lot today and we tried to put that in practice yesterday, it hopefully payed off enough to get the win.”
Following the conclusion of the match, Monke described what this accomplishment means to him and also the other two seniors. He recalls that the previous year’s loss fueled this title run.
“This match was everything to us seniors,” Monke said. “Last year, we were one match away from winning it all and we were really upset. But this year, we came back with only the goal of winning a championship, and we did that so it is very satisfying.”
While Monke savored this feeling of victory, Brown wasn’t sure it would come after the first doubles loss. Once he discovered the third doubles score was 4-4, he regained confidence that a win was in reach.
“It was scary, I was tearing up a little after first doubles lost,” Brown said. “I was so sad, I was like ‘Man, this is how we go out,’ and then I saw the score. Its 4-4 and I’m like, ‘Oh man, we have a chance,’ and then it just ended phenomenally. I couldn’t have asked for any other way. A little bit of drama makes everything better.”
One of the youngest starting players on this championship team, Mark Pimentel had been prepared from a young age by his father. Jorge Pimentel has played tennis his entire life and became a frequent supporter of the team throughout the season. He recognizes great progress in the team and enjoys the growing maturity of the squad.
“I can see great progress in Mark’s tennis,” Jorge Pimentel said. “Seeing all its components coming together in him, but more importantly, seeing his own individuality and intuitiveness in the game. Also, I have seen a growing maturity in the team as a whole as they have competed with other schools and enjoying the competitive game of tennis.”
This is the first boys tennis championship since 2000 and the first tennis victory since the girls team won in 2003. The most recent titles for the other sports teams at FC was by the football team from 2016-2018 and the baseball team in 2017.
The team plans on participating in lessons over the summer break and helping coach camps for elementary and junior high students. This time spent together looks to boost team chemistry for the following season.
Below is a slideshow of the tennis Valley championship, May 6
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