The men’s varsity tennis team’s season recently culminated with the qualification of three of its players—freshman Raphael Wolf and juniors Nick Penniman and Haidyn Green—to the District of Columbia State Athletic Association (DCSAA) championship tournament. Wolf lost in the first round, Penniman in the second round and Green in the semifinals.
“We played well as a team,” Green said. “I only lost to the No. 1 at Sidwell. The kid was ridiculous, so I’m pretty proud.”
The single-elimination tournament lasted four days beginning on June 1 and included 32 athletes. The Mid-Atlantic Athletic Conference, of which GDS’ men’s teams are a part, did not host its usual end-of-season championship this season, making the DCSAA championship the tennis team’s only postseason competition.
According to a DCSAA bulletin, players were selected to participate by a seeding committee composed of the DCSAA tournament director, a United States Tennis Association staff member and District coaches, who ranked participant entries. The tournament took place at the Southeast Tennis & Learning Center in Congress Heights and used eight-game pro sets through the semifinal round.
Green, the No. 3 seed, easily won his first two matches against St. Anselm’s Abbey School senior Stephen DeCarlo and School Without Walls freshman Ben Yarkin. In his next matchup, Green beat Sidwell Friends junior Rahul Prakash, the No. 5 seed, 8 games to 1.
“For him to have that type of success and represent GDS,” Wolf said, “was really impressive and great for the tennis program.” Wolf and Penniman are both members of The Augur Bit’s staff.
Green’s loss came at the hands of Sidwell senior Akira Morganstern, the No. 1 seed, to whom Green had already lost in a regular season match the week before. In the middle of their earlier bout, Green’s tennis strings broke, so he finished the game with Penniman’s racket.
In their tournament matchup, Green lost 8 to 4 but was not ill-prepared, bringing four rackets with him, according to men’s varsity tennis coach Rachel Johnson. Green went on to beat Sidwell junior Aristotelis Bezianis, the No. 7 seed, 8 to 5 to win third place in the tournament the following day.
According to Wolf, Green’s impact wasn’t limited to his performance on the court. “He tried to lift everyone else up,” Wolf said. “That’s why people like Nick and me still competed well.”
Penniman enjoyed success in the first round, rebounding from a 2–6 deficit to win his first match against Woodrow Wilson High School freshman Timur Britikov. According to Penniman, part of the comeback came from his change in strategy, focusing on hitting more backhands and slices to counter Britikov’s powerful strokes.
Due to his strategic shift, Johnson said Penniman “was able to control the pace of the game.”
Following his victory on an indoor court, Penniman was scheduled to play his second-round game outside only a few hours later. Waiting for him was Gonzaga College High School senior Burke Pablo, the No. 6 seed, who swiftly beat Penniman 8 to 0.
“Just getting to the second round was an accomplishment,” Penniman said.
On June 1, Wolf lost 8–1 to St. John’s College High School sophomore Mason Edmund in the first round. “I wasn’t moving as quickly as I wanted to,” Wolf said. “I didn’t feel as energized, and that’s a big part of my game to play with energy.”
Green, Penniman and Wolf plan to return for the 2022 spring season. Johnson said the future of the GDS tennis program looks bright, just as Sidwell is graduating a noticeable portion of its team. Penniman believes the Mighty Hoppers have a real chance of challenging Sidwell, which has dominated both the men’s and women’s DCSAA championships since their creation in 2015.
“It is going to take creativity and lots of effort,” Penniman said. “But next year, I think we have a serious shot and I’m really excited.”