Mixed doubles cap off Cinderella run with state championship

Sophomore Brady MacBride runs to high-five mixed doubles partner junior Sky Carter during the pair’s regional final matchup against Wootton. The two won the state mixed doubles title on May 27.

WJ tennis mixed doubles pair junior Sky Carter and sophomore Brady MacBride won the mixed doubles state championship on Saturday, May 27, capping an improbable Cinderella run and picking up WJ’s first tennis state championship in five years.

Carter and MacBride qualified for the state tournament by winning the region, which is one of the toughest regions in the state. In the 4A-West Region I, WJ competes against perennial favorites Whitman, Wootton and Churchill. Against the three teams combined in the regular season, WJ won one match of the total 21 played (seven per school).

Despite winning the mixed doubles championship, WJ was unable to place overall as a team at states, with Blair, Urbana and Broadneck tying for first place and Severna Park winning second place in the 4A class.

The pair opened their regional campaign against Whitman partners Imaan Jeffrey and Ashu Machada, winning 6-2, 6-2. In the regional semifinal, the pair bested RM duo and number one seed in the region Ellen Bu and Andy Deng 7-6(5), 6-1. The regional final proved to be a blockbuster with a hard-fought comeback win against Wootton pair number two-seeded Katherina Yao and Ben Wang. Carter and MacBride gave up the first set 6-1, but tightly took the second set in a tiebreak, 7-6(5).

“Going down 6-1 in the first set against Wootton was of course not the desired result … Reflecting back on it, though, I’m proud of [ourselves] for the composure we had … Our game plan itself really didn’t change, just the ability to execute it, which defined the success of the match,” MacBride said.

In the ten-point match tiebreaker to determine the regional champion, Carter and MacBride clutched up a 10-7 tiebreak win.

Carter and MacBride were reseeded as the number one seeds in the state bracket and started their state run with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Parkdale players Nicolette Ekene and Brownson Ayaba, following it up with a 6-4, 6-3 semifinal win over Blair’s Jessica Zhang and Tyler He. While other counties play mixed doubles in their regular season, MCPS has girls’ and boys’ tennis teams and matchups, meaning mixed doubles is only played during the postseason at regionals and states.

“Mixed doubles is definitely different from singles because it requires faster reaction time and communicating with your teammate. For our game plan, Brady would put shots away at the net, while I would rally and set up the shots for him,” Carter said.

The WJ dominating duo closed out the state final with a statement 6-2, 6-2 win against Broadneck finalists Elicia Aponte and Charlie Ernst, winning the state championship without giving up a single set.

“Saying any of the matches to win states were harder than the regional final would be a lie, but the focus and execution of strategy needed to win were still key,” MacBride said.

The mixed doubles championship is the team’s first since 2018 mixed doubles duo Lea Kosanovic and Ethan Kowalski took home the state silverware. Kowalski won three straight state mixed doubles titles for WJ in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In addition to Carter and MacBride, the girls’ doubles pair sophomore Mia Milicevic and senior Alison Razafimandimby reached the regional final, losing 6-0, 6-0 to Naomi Esterowitz and Anusha Iyer of Wootton while boys’ doubles sophomore Isaac Kritz and senior Utkarsh Srivastava also fell in the regional final 6-2, 6-2 to Churchill’s Andrew Wu and Ethan Han.

“It was great that the crowd came to support. I loved the atmosphere and getting one more chance to play with Alison,” Milicevic said.

The three doubles pairs making the regional finals marks WJ’s best postseason tennis performance in years, and with many of both teams’ stars set to return next year, the future remains bright for WJ tennis.