Cougars eye final step

Mitchell Smith had as much to do with Coronado’s boys tennis program winning its fifth straight Sunrise Region title as anyone last season.

But the junior also holds himself largely responsible for the Cougars falling just short of the team’s first state championship.

Smith lost 6-3 to Palo Verde’s Fernando Sunago in the final set of last year’s state final, and the Panthers walked away with a 10-8 victory and the state title.

“I really want to win state this year because last year I was the deciding match and I lost. So I want to fix that,” Smith said.

Playing No. 1 singles, Smith is expected to lead the Cougars back to the postseason.

Coronado has established itself as the class of the Sunrise but has left the state tournament empty-handed in each of the past five seasons. The Cougars also lost in the 2006 and 2008 state finals.

“I kind of press upon them that you were only two points away here or there from winning your first state title,” fifth-year coach Luther Bohanan said. “Hopefully that will give them a little incentive to work harder this year so we can get back to Reno.

“If we can get there this year, it’ll be my seniors’ fourth year of going to the state tournament. I hope they just work as hard as they can to get to that and get us over the hump.”

Doubles player Jon Berberich is one of those seniors, and he said the recurring theme of disappointment at state is a driving force.

“It’s definitely motivation after being so close and losing it,” he said. “We’re going to fight harder than ever to get it. It’s my last year, and we want it more than ever.”

Coronado returns 12 of last season’s 16 players, including the doubles tandem of Xavier Smith and Kai Carl.

Bohanan is still trying to fit the pieces of the puzzle together, but he has plenty of talent to work with, given the additions of freshmen Sam Cohen, Cassell King and Aaron Egbert along with sophomore Sebastian Sanquist.

Mitchell Smith is still expected to set the tone.

“He’s just a solid player,” Bohanan said. “He doesn’t get down on himself, he’s got great strokes, a great serve (and) he’s consistent.

“He lost the first set in one of his individual matches last year, then came back and won 12 games in a row. He’s mentally tough.”

Mitchell Smith said the Cougars’ depth and experience should help get them back to the state tournament.

“I think our strengths are going to be (that) the upperclassmen are all experienced and a lot of them are at the same level,” he said. “We have a pretty even team. We can always make switches when we need to.”

Coronado’s ultimate goal is redemption at the state tournament, which begins Oct. 21 in Reno.

“We’ve come so close, but it’s just slipped out of our fingers,” Berberich said. “As a senior, it would mean more to me because it’s my last chance.

“It would be really nice just to put a banner on the wall, for once.”