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Leahy takes second at state meet


Crusader plays well vs. Sundaram

Connor Leahy threw everything but the kitchen sink at Lincoln's Goutham Sundaram in the 6A boys' tennis singles championships on Saturday.

Scoop shots at the net. Splitting groundstrokes from the backline. Volleys that sent Sundaram scurrying to the far corners of the court. Serves that appeared untouchable. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ  - Jesuit senior Connor Leahy reaches strikes the ball against Lincoln junior Goutham Sundaram in the 6A boys tennis championship at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

The Jesuit senior did everything in his power to give Sundaram — the 2012 returning state champion — a run at the prize. However, Sundaram played arguably the match of his life, turning in highlight reel returns that somehow found the blue surface instead of the white line. All Leahy could do was shake his head and shrug with a grin on his face as Sundaram did his best Novak Djokovic impersonation, floating a shot over the head-charging Crusader for the game-winning point in the second set.

Sundaram walked away with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Leahy but in no way did the Crusader concede defeat. Both sets were tied 3-3 before the Cardinal junior earned a pair of breaks that put the ball in Sundaram's court. Leahy was up 2-0 in the second set with two game points to go up 3-0 but couldn't take advantage. He got back up to 3-2, but Sundaram forced Leahy's hand a bit by sitting along the baseline and playing a defensive style of tennis. by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ  - Jesuit senior Connor Leahy reaches strikes the ball against Lincoln junior Goutham Sundaram in the 6A boys tennis championship at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

“I wanted to be aggressive, take the opportunities when I could to come in and finish points at the net,” said Leahy. "Goutham played a great match, he was able to track down a bunch of those balls and kept making me work. He came up with some big shots when it mattered most, so credit to him. He brought his 'A' game today.”

'Expect to hit'

Leahy fused together a creative weaponry of backhand scoops and forehand slices to try and take Sundaram down the wrong track. Against the defending 6A title holder, Leahy was compelled to mix up speeds and shots, throw in a little screwball to go with the heater if you will. Leahy's mindset was “expect to hit one more ball,” and for the most part, the Jesuit righty did so with perpetual labor and piercing shots.

“You have to be able to hit tons of different shots, and I knew that coming in. I couldn't be hitting the same balls back to him. I had to drop some short or push some deep,” said Leahy. “I thought I was able to do that well at times, and others times, I missed here and there, but overall I thought I played pretty well. I gave myself a chance at winning.”

His goal was to get to Saturday's championship match and rehash what would've been the Metro district final, had Leahy's body not backfired on him with crippling full body cramps. The individual award didn't come to be, but Leahy was a huge key in the Crusaders clinching their sixth straight team championship. The second seed in the single's bracket, Leahy beat Roseburg's Stefan Bell in the quarterfinals and Westview's Avi Vemuri in the semis. Both matches went three sets.

“That's the most important thing, and that'll ease the pain for this loss,” said Leahy who is playing tennis for Seattle University next season. “Our main goal going into state is to win it as a team. Individual titles are great, but we were able to achieve our team goal, which is a great feeling.

"People think tennis is an individual sport, but it's great to be part of a team and have guys support you. We had the best team in the world, and we were always behind each other. I knew they were 100 percent behind me today, and it meant a lot to me that they were there.”

Vemuri — the fourth seed in the singles' bracket — had an outstanding showing at state, taking a set off Leahy in the semis and bouncing back from the defeat to beat South Salem's Collyn Erion 6-1, 6-0 in the third-place match. Only a sophomore, the forceful Wildcat's bombarding, shelling sort of game will act as a nice foil to Sundaram's low-risk game next season in Metro play.