BOYS STATE: Coronado’s late surge can’t undo slow start

Coronado’s boys tennis team would trade its rackets and a few cases of tennis balls for the chance to restart Friday’s Class 4A state final.

The Cougars started slowly and ended up in an unhappily familiar position.

Coronado never fully recovered after falling behind Reno 4-2 in the first round and lost to the Huskies 10-8 at Darling Tennis Center, relegating the Cougars to the runner-up spot for the fourth consecutive year.

“The nerves just got to them in the first round,” Coronado coach Luther Bohanan said. “I told them they just needed to relax, and they did, and they kept it close.”

Reno won its first state boys tennis title since 1994 and the first by a school from Northern Nevada since Galena in 2000.

The Huskies, who pulled off a 10-8 upset of defending champion Palo Verde in Thursday’s semifinal, stormed out of the gates, with Nick Sexton and Kenny Stark each posting a 6-1 singles win in the first round, and the doubles teams of Alec Clark and Chris Sexton, and Kai Mars and Dominic Aramini also breezing.

Coronado (14-1), which two weeks ago won its seventh straight Sunrise Region title and advanced Thursday by beating Centennial in a semifinal tiebreaker, finally settled down. But the deficit was too much of overcome, and the Cougars were unable to win their first state title.

“The score could have been a lot worse,” Bohanan said. “They could have just given up, but they made a game of it. That’s on my seniors.”

Matt Dees went 3-0 in singles, and Kai Carl and Bryden Baxter were 3-0 in doubles, but the rest of the team managed only two wins — both by Stephen Boyd and Patricio Sanchez, who gutted out a 7-5 second-round doubles win over Reno’s Luke Smith and Kevin Pikero.

When Carl and Baxter completed a 7-5 victory over Clark and Chris Sexton in the third round, the Cougars were within 9-8 with one match still on the court.

But Reno’s Stark finished off a 6-3 clinching win by sending a high lob that Andy Durand hit into the net.

In a perfect world, the Cougars’ lineup would have looked a lot different.

Brian Foley, who started his career at Coronado, now plays for Cimarron-Memorial. From last year’s team, Mitchell Smith and Sam Cohen did not return, and Cassell King is playing in Florida.

“The kids played well,” Bohanan said. “We don’t have any tournament players. We have a bunch of kids who come out and work hard every day. They’re not home-schooled or anything like that. They just work hard. For all they’ve gone through, they played really, really well.”

Nick Sexton, Stark and Mahesh Challapalli all went 2-1 in singles for Reno. Clark and Chris Sexton were 2-1 in doubles as the Huskies got at least one win from every spot in the lineup.

“It finally came to fruition for us,” Reno coach Craig Gorbach said. “Everybody stepped up to play when we needed them. It was just a total team effort.”

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