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BOYS TENNIS: Monarchs make playoffs after decade-long drought

The Exeter boys’ tennis team fell to the Yosemite Badgers in the first round of playoffs after qualifying for the first time in a decade

EXETER – Though they didn’t continue on in the playoffs as a team, the doubles pair of Calvin Brooks and Joey Cortez qualified for the Individual Area Tournament.

The Exeter boys’ tennis team ended a monumental season on Tuesday, April 25 after a loss to Yosemite High School in the first round of playoffs. This was the first year the Monarchs qualified for playoffs in over a decade. They were 10-6 overall, coming in second place in the Tri-County Sequoia league. They were moved up to Division IV for the playoffs and were the fourth overall seed. The team more than met their goal of finishing with a winning season and making the playoffs.

“Our mantras were to work hard, have fun and never give up,” Exeter head coach Patrick Hendricks said. “The boys demonstrated that week in and week out. I couldn’t be more proud and honored to have had the chance to lead them this season.”

The Monarchs lost 5-4 against the Badgers with the top four players losing in the singles round. Unfortunately for the Monarchs, number three Joey Cortez went home sick the day of the competition, but they still had a shot at winning. Thanks to Eli Wendt and Chris Vazquez winning their singles matches, the Monarchs had a chance to come back in the doubles round.

Number two Calvin Brooks teamed with Malachi Sweradowski and won in the doubles round. It was Sweradowski’s first ever varsity match after Cortez was unavailable. The pair of Wendt and JJ Jauregui won their doubles match as well, but the third pair lost and the Monarchs were eliminated. Despite the loss, the Monarchs were proud to have qualified after a decade and according to them, it’s thanks to their coach.

“I joined last year,” Calvin Brooks, a senior, said. “My coach told us we have to turn something around. He knows what he’s doing. But what it comes down to is we got a lot of depth on the roster that we didn’t have in the last few years.”

The number one for the Monarchs is sophomore Sammy Mendez. He finished this season with a 6-10 record taking on the top players in the league. Behind him were Brooks, Cortez and Michael Campos filling out the top four singles spots. As a pair, Brooks and Cortez qualified for the Individual Area Tournament, in which athletes compete without their teams. According to Hendricks, Mendez may have qualified as a single, but was injured the day before the TCC League Championships on April 22.

Besides qualifying for playoffs, the team is most proud of their top 10 finish in the Visalia Tennis Invitational, in which teams from all over Tulare County compete. Cortez and Brooks won the consolation doubles championship at the tournament, a precursor to the pair qualifying for the Individual Area Tournament.

“Just the connection and brotherhood the boys developed was a highlight,” Hendricks said. “They really had a fun, competitive atmosphere at practice that carried over to games. The mindset changed from ‘I’m just playing a game of tennis’ to ‘I want to win this match and I expect to do it.’”

Though the team will lose nine seniors to graduation, including Cortez, Brooks, and Jauregui, they have promising underclassmen. Mendez and Wendt are only sophomores and Campos is a junior. They will step up to lead the team. After a winning season and qualifying for playoffs, the program will benefit from more players wanting to join.

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