Subscribe for 99¢
Metro League Tournament

Akash Rajan of John Burroughs hits a return shot during the championship match of the No. 1 singles flight of the Metro League Tournament on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at Westminster Christian Academy in Town and Country, Mo. Paul Kopsky, STLhighschoolsports.com

SPRINGFIELD, MO. — It was appropriate Thursday when sophomore Akash Rajan won the fifth and clinching match as John Burroughs defended its Missouri Class 1 boys team tennis state championship with a 5-2 victory over Metro League rival MICDS at Cooper Tennis Complex.

All Rajan had to do was to beat defending Class 1 singles champion Evan Erb of MICDS, which he did 6-4, 6-2.

It was the third match of the season between the sophomore standouts. Rajan won in the finals of the Metro League Tournament while Erb won in a dual match shortly thereafter.

"This feels pretty special," Rajan said. "I think this feels even better than last year because the competition was better. The first set was very tight. I just won a few more points than he did in the first set. The key for me was to stay consistent and stick to my game."

There is a strong possibility Rajan and Erb could meet again in the individual portion of the Class 1 state tournament. They are in the same half of the draw and would meet in the semifinals Saturday morning.

The Bombers, who had defeated Pembroke Hill 5-0 in the semifinals Thursday morning, won at No. 2 and 3 doubles to take 2-1 advantage going into singles. Dav Nayak and Sam Wang won at No. 2 doubles while Adam Zhao and Isaac Bledsoe won at No. 3.

Erb and Chase Nwamu won an exciting match at No. 1 doubles for MICDS over John Burroughs’ Rajan and Rory Sutter.

Wang won quickly at No. 4 singles for the Bombers while Nayak won at No. 3.

MICDS was doing well on some of the courts still playing when Nayak came through with the win at No. 1 singles.

"All I can say is wow," John Burroughs coach Allison Engelsmann said. "I think our depth and heart is what made this team a state champion again. I am very proud of them and I think it might feel even better beating a rival and such a good team as MICDS in the finals."

It was a special win for Bledsoe, a senior on a Bombers team dominated by sophomores.

Bledsoe is the youngest of a family which included brothers Karlos, Christian and Xavier. This is the third state championship in the Bledsoe family — Isaac won twice in tennis while Christian won in lacrosse.

"I gave up wrestling this winter, which I have done from seventh to 11th grade, to concentrate on tennis," said Bledsoe, the team captain who is going to Princeton. "This is a great way to go out. This is more special than last year because I played No. 7. This year I was able to contribute, although all props go to the sophomores (Rajan, Sutter, Nayak, Wang and Adam Zhao). I was losing my match today, but I had trust in the sophomores."

MICDS, which defeated Thomas Jefferson Independent 5-0 in its semifinal, had a singles win from freshman Brian Tokarczyk at No. 5 to go along with the win at No. 1 doubles.

"It came down to John Burroughs at the top spots," MICDS coach Patrick Huewe said. "We needed a win at No. 1 or 3 singles. Losing those put us in a tough spot. We were doing well on some of the other courts and I felt we fought hard. All credit goes to John Burroughs."

In the Class 2 tournament, St. Louis University High made quite a statement in its first state team tennis trip in 13 years.

The Junior Bills came back after losing two of their three doubles matches to defeat Rockhurst 5-3 in the semifinals before falling 5-0 to four-time defending champion Rock Bridge in the finals.

Freshmen paved the way for SLUH’s win over the Hawklets. Gus Tettamble and Nick Fischer won at No. 1 doubles while Tettamble (No. 1 singles), Fischer (No. 2 singles) and Henry Dowd (No. 6 singles) all were victorious. Sophomore Leo Da Silva won at No. 3 singles for the Junior Bills.

"The match against Rockhurst was tight like I expected," SLUH coach Brian Kirk said. "They were comparable to Marquette. I was hoping to get two wins in doubles but we really played well in singles. The three freshmen really stepped up and played fantastic tennis."

Sign up for our free newsletter for the most comprehensive digest of sports stats, scores and stories from any and all area high schools.