The Crusaders dominate in doubles and win a fourth straight 6A title
by: John Lariviere FINALLY — Jesuit’s Nick Biggi lets his racket fly and races to hug partner Connor Leahy after the Crusader duo beat teammates Nic Mulflur and Sam Stephenson to win the Class 6A state title on Saturday.

BEAVERTON - When teammates face one another, a grind-it-out competitive affair is to be expected.

So it's no surprise that Saturday's Class 6A boys' doubles state championship match between two Jesuit High teams came down to a third-set tiebreaker at Tualatin Hills Tennis Center.

Junior Nick Biggi and sophomore Connor Leahy defeated Crusader teammates Sam Stephenson and Nic Mulflur by winning seven of eight tiebreaker points to capture the school's second consecutive doubles state title.

'If you would have told me 12 months ago that I would have been the state doubles champion, I would have said 'no way,'' Biggi said. 'I would have never guessed I'd be at this point.'

Jesuit's success in doubles played a key role in the team winning its fourth straight Class 6A state title. The Crusaders finished the tournament with 30 points while second-place Sprague finished far back at 14.

Saturday's match featured a bit less banter then May 16's district final between the same two tandems - another three-setter won by Biggi/Leahy - but was every bit as competitive.

'I honestly think it's more competitive when you play your own teammates,' Biggi said. 'You go to school with them, you have classes with them, and everyone knows what happened.'

The pro-Jesuit crowd in attendance, not favoring one team over the other, was treated to a dandy of a match.

Stephenson and Mulflur seized the first set with a 7-6 (8-6 tiebreaker) victory, but Biggi and Leahy battled back with a commanding 6-2 victory in the second set.

The third set was a back-and-forth affair that didn't see either team break serve until Stephenson and Mulflur took the ninth game and grabbed a 5-4 lead.

Biggi and Leahy returned the favor and knotted things up at 5-5 to extend the match before taking a 6-5 lead into the 12th game. Mulflur and Stephenson won the ensuing game to force a tiebreaker.

But the tiebreaker featured little drama as Biggi and Leahy cruised to a 7-1 win.

'We just focused on each point one at a time,' Leahy said of their mindset going into the winner-takes-all tiebreaker. 'We had some good returns and some big winners.'

The fact that the match was decided by a tiebreaker was a surprise to neither team.

'We expected nothing less than what they gave us at districts,' Mulflur said. 'We knew it was going to be a close match.'

'When you play against guys on a daily basis, you learn their tendencies,' Biggi said. 'I returned their serves better than usual, and they figured out my angles better. I'm just really excited with the end result, because it was definitely one of the toughest matches I've ever played.'

Stephenson said the fact that he and Mulflur had to constantly battle their way back - they led just once in the third set - eventually wore them down.

'It was tough,' Stephenson said. 'We'd go down, then get it back. But it's hard to fight back over and over again.'

Leahy and Biggi entered the weekend as the tournament's top-seed, while Stephenson and Mulflur entered as the tournament's No. 2 - a flip-flop of how the teams were seeded at district. Both teams made quick work of their competition at state prior to the finals, each winning three matches in straight sets.

For Stephenson and Mulflur, it was their second consecutive as runner-up to a pair of teammates. They lost last year's state championship in straight sets to teammates Brendan Gibbons and Gram Leahy.

The boys singles draw did not go quite as well for Jesuit, though some of the Crusaders' difficulties there were the result of tough draws more than poor play.

Senior Gram Leahy, the Metro champ and fourth seed, played his way into Friday's quarterfinals with two straight wins, but came up short there, falling to sixth-seeded Matt Pronseti of South Medford 6-2, 6-4.

Jesuit senior Peder Gram followed a similar route at state, winning twice to earn a berth in the quarterfinals, then running into top-ranked eventual state champion Stuart Tierney of Glencoe. Gram led the first set 4-1 but couldn't close the deal, seeing his tournament end 6-4, 6-1 to Tierney.

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