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    HomeSportsSt. Albans thumps Landon, wins third straight IAC tennis title

    St. Albans thumps Landon, wins third straight IAC tennis title

    St. Albans entered Thursday’s Interstate Athletic Conference title match at home against Landon with plenty of reason to feel confident. Despite sweeping their opponents in their regular season matchup, the Bulldogs were careful not to let cockiness break their focus.

    Junior Cameron Zia expected a battle at No. 1 singles and he got one against Bears sophomore Jeh-Lei Fan. His frustration was visible in a tight second set, amplified by several close line calls.

    But midway through the set, after putting away a strong volley, the sideline erupted in cheers thanks to a sudden influx of supporters from the Bulldogs’ baseball team next door.

    “I was trying to keep calm. I was trying to keep serious,” Zia said. “But there was just one point where I hit a winner, and then everybody just erupted, and I couldn’t help but laugh. I was just smiling.”

    The boost swung the momentum in a 6-2, 6-3 win, leading to another 7-0 win for St. Albans (13-0) over Landon (11-3-1) that marked the Bulldogs’ third straight IAC title. It also continued an unbeaten season for St. Albans, the first in the program’s history.

    The team also sought out other challenges outside their conference during the season, defeating powerhouse teams such as Sidwell Friends and DeMatha.

    “It starts with practice,” said senior Aurian Azghandi, who played No. 3 singles. “Every day at practice, we’re trying to push each other and really emulate a match environment in our drills or practice sets.”

    For Coach Karim Najdi, seeing his players maintain their focus is a testament to his drilling and their own mental and physical strength.

    “There is always passion,” Najdi said. “Sometimes you worry that one of the kids is going to maybe crack. But they performed beautifully.”

    The Bulldogs say the challenge is to defend their success and find a way to raise the bar.

    “Now the pressure isn’t on us to do something like this. It’s to keep it and maintain it,” said sophomore Cyrus Zia, Cameron’s brother and the Bulldogs’ No. 2 singles player. “It’s almost a bigger accomplishment to stay on top than to get to the top.”

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