In May 2022, for the first time in 30 years, MMA athletes made a trip to the Final Four! Colonels Tennis finished fourth in Class 1 state competition. This was MMA’s first overall athletics Final Four appearance since 1992. A program that continues to grow stronger for our cadet-athletes, Colonels Tennis went 11-3 this season and 24-4 during the last two seasons.
They lost two team duels May 27 in Springfield at the Cooper Tennis Complex which placed them as fourth in the state.
Led by head coach Brad Smith and assistant coach Tom Allen, the MMA tennis team competing in the Final Four consisted of the following cadet-athletes:
- Simon Way (Milton, Georgia)
- Samuel Way (Milton, Georgia)
- Luke Ott (Dallas, Texas)
- Nathan Dempsey (Colleyville, Texas)
- Luis Orozco Navarro (Magdalena Contreras, Mexico)
- Jose Anguiano (Atizapan De Zaragoza, Mexico)
- Gorka Yarte-Zertuche (Libson, Portugal)
In an article written by Jeremy Jacob of the Mexico Ledger, Smith said, “We played really hard, and we lost really close matches. We were competitive. We deserved to be there.”
Athletics at MMA combines the structure and accountability for which the Academy is known with the healthy outlet that sports provide. According to Smith, he holds high expectations for a strong work ethic for cadets as well as promotes tennis as an outlet for cadets to have fun.
“I definitely strove to make tennis practice the joy of their day,” Smith said. “We try to play games and we laugh and joke …We just try to keep a happy atmosphere and also a hardworking atmosphere.”
In the Final Four play-offs, MMA lost 5-1 to Warrensburg, the eventual state champions, after losing a couple of three-set matches via tiebreakers. Samuel Way lost to Quinn Conley in the No. 3 singles match. Way dropped the first set 6-1 before winning the second set 6-1, but he lost the final set 10-8. His brother, Simon Way, won the first set 6-3 in the No. 5 singles against Anthony Rehn, but he dropped the next two sets 6-1 and 10-7.
Sophomores Jose Anguiano and Nathan Dempsey won the No. 3 doubles match 8-6 against Rehn and Grant Moore, which awarded MMA with its point.
The third-place match against Clayton was a shutout loss for the Colonels. Clayton won all three doubles matches with scores of 8-2, 8-4 and 8-5. Anguiano lost straight sets against Kensei Teng in the No.4 singles match, dropping the second set 7-5 after a 6-3 score in the first set. In the No. 3 singles match, Samuel Way lost to Anurag Venigalla with set scores of 6-1 and 6-1.
“We have a pretty young team — no seniors — and (the Ways) both played against players who were very strong-minded,” Smith said. “The matches took almost two hours for singles, so they went back and forth the entire match. (My guys) weren’t tired. It was just a battle of will.”
During the state singles competition May 20 in Springfield, Yarte-Zertuche lost 6-1 and 6-0 to Daniel Radke from Witfield and then lost to Rogersville’s Jacob Zimmerman with set scores of 6-3, 3-6 and 10-6. The Colonels double pairings of Samuel and Simon Way and Anguiano and Dempsey lost two matches and were eliminated that day.
Smith said the Colonels were more prepared for competition this year than any MMA team has been in 30 years, and he is hopeful for the 2023 season. Now that MMA has been exposed to high-level competition and did not lose anyone to graduation, the 2023 Colonels have high goals.
“I think that we’re going to take state next year,” Smith said. “I have full confidence that next year is going to be a strong year for us and even the year after.”