Back when they were in middle school, Valencia boys tennis’ Jackson Boxall and Stephen Thay played doubles together at the Paseo Club.
They were separated when Boxall entered high school, which was West Ranch at the time, only seeing each other in passing at the tennis club.
By the time Thay was a freshman at Valencia, Boxall had transferred and was playing on the Vikings team. After trying on a few different partners, it was clear that the two were meant to be reunited at the high school level.
“It was pretty amazing,” Boxall, a rising senior, said. “I knew from our summer camp that I wanted to play with him again because I knew our games were really similar and we could both work off each other.”
The two powered through league with a 25-2 record before winning the Foothill League individual tournament doubles title and earning the title of All-SCV Doubles Team of the Year.
Thay, a rising sophomore, said it didn’t take long for the two to pick up where they left off in middle school.
“Maybe like a week,” Thay said of how long it took to gel with his partner. “We already had experience from before, so we pretty much knew each other and how we could help each other cover the ball. So overall, our friendship is pretty good. That helps out a lot on the court.”
The strong net presence of the two in addition to Boxall’s lethal serve beat the experience of West Ranch’s Noah Morrow and Quincy Walter-Eze in the Foothill League individual tournament finals for the title.
“I just remember it was so surreal,” Boxall said. “Stephen and I never thought we would win that title. We just wanted to get to the final and have a good time just playing. We just got the job done.”
The two fell in third round of the Round of CIF-Southern Section individual sectionals in June.
Thay has expressed interest in playing singles for the Vikings next season, but said he’d also be “super happy” if he had the opportunity to play alongside Boxall again. Boxall feels the same.
“Stephen as a freshman was just amazing to play with,” Boxall said. “He took this (season) as a very mature freshman, which is very hard to find, and he just kept on playing his heart out and never gave up.”
All-SCV Doubles team
Quincy Walter-Eze and Noah Morrow, West Ranch, seniors
These two were the No. 1 seed entering the Foothill League tournament, but ultimately fell to No. 2-seeded Boxall and Thay. Walter-Eze and Morrow began playing doubles nearly halfway through the season, with the former posing threats to opponents with his height and the latter with his quickness.
Evan Balmain and Chan Gi Kim, Valencia, senior and junior
This pair relied on their game intelligence to succeed this season. They fell in the semifinals of the Foothill League finals, but performed well in the Vikings team playoffs. They were the only players in singles or doubles to win three sets against Oak Park in the second round of the CIF-SS Division 2 playoffs.
Robert Kim and Aristo Turalakey, West Ranch, juniors
When Turalakey’s former partner, Charlie Spina, left to spend a year abroad, it was up in the air who Turalakey would play with. After playing alongside multiple Wildcats, he found chemistry with Robert Kim. They were the No. 3 seed in the Foothill League tournament and fell in the semifinals to Boxall and Thay.