As the last Foothill League doubles team standing, Jackson Boxall and Stephen Thay of Valencia faced off against Alex Ko and Tyler Tseng of San Marino High School in the CIF- Southern Section Boys Tennis Round of 32 at Whittier Narrows Tennis Center in South El Monte on Thursday.
Losing in straight sets, 2-6 and 4-6, Thay admitted that the Vikings duo didn’t approach the match with the right mindset.
“We started playing the first set and tried to feel them out,” Thay said. “…But what set us apart from winning the match was the fact that we were a little too overconfident in our ability.”
Down early in the first set, Boxall and Thay were never able to get a rhythm going against their San Marino counterparts, dropping the first set.
“They came up against a tough team,” said Valencia head coach Jen Azevedo. “… But when you get to the round of 32 there are no ‘gimmes.’ You have earned the right to be out there, but everyone is just as strong and you have to be at your best to make it through and we were not at our very best.”
Trying to turn things around in the second set, with the sun beating down on them, the Viking duo tried a new tactic and started to be more aggressive by pushing the net.
With the change in tactics, Boxall and Thay were able to go up in the second set 3-2. And once again at 4-3.
Then, the momentum shifted.
Four breakpoints ensued that allowed the San Marino duo to capitalize and tie the game at 4-4.
“When you have four opportunities in a row and you can’t convert, it’s tough,” Azevedo said. “The game was tight and it could have gone either way.”
Tied at four-all, the San Marino team was able to seize the moment and win two more games to put the Vikings away, 6-4, in two sets.
“One of their players kept hitting really good serves to my forehand and backhand, pulling me off the court in order to set up his partner,” Boxall said. “When it came down to Stephen serving in the next game, they were on top of it and just wouldn’t miss.”
Ending the season as the only Foothill League doubles team to reach the Round of 32, not to mention repeating as league doubles champs, the sophomore and senior tandem have cemented their legacy as one of the best doubles partners to have ever graced the Foothill League.
“I think this doubles team is one for the books and will be referenced for a long time,” Azevedo said. “I know they are hurting, but that’s how our sport goes. I’m so proud of these guys because they have fought so hard this year and throughout their careers as Vikings.”
With Boxall graduating, Thay and the Vikings coaching staff will have to make a couple tough decisions as they will have to decide if Thay will pick up another partner or if he’ll switch to singles play.
“A massive shout-out to all my coaches for supporting us and to all my teammates for being such phenomenal players to play next to,” Thay said.
Added Boxall: “I want to thank the entire Viking family for everything that they have provided me and I’m really gracious for being a part of it all. Thanks to my high school coaches for pushing me to become better and better every day and my teammates for always sticking up and being the best teammates to play with.
“I’m going to miss Stephen’s sense of humor and sly comments every time I shank a ball or he hits a weird shot.”