By Tommy Keeler Jr. - firstname.lastname@example.org
STEPHENS CITY -- Kaleb Nguyen had a decision to make.
The Sherando senior wanted to make sure his final year was fun, but he wasn't sure if he wanted to play soccer with some of his friends or play tennis and try to help the team continue its winning ways.
Nguyen, who had already decided to play tennis in college at the University of Mary Washington, elected to play tennis again.
"Honestly, I just wasn't in shape for soccer," Nguyen said of his decision.
Nguyen, The Northern Virginia Daily's Boys Tennis Player of the Year, played on Sherando's JV soccer team his freshman year before deciding to play tennis for the Warriors the following year.
The move to high school tennis has been a great one for Nguyen. He lost only four singles matches in three seasons and helped lead the Warriors to three straight regular season district titles.
Nguyen has always been successful in tennis, and his game has continued to grow over the last few years. He won the district singles and doubles titles each of the last three years.
His big serve and solid groundstrokes have made him a force in the region as well. Nguyen advanced to the Region II singles and doubles final this season, but once again came up short in his quest for a Group AA state appearance.
Nguyen lost in singles to Freedom's Alex Wong, who he had beaten a week earlier in the team semifinals.
"After the singles match, I was pretty disappointed with myself knowing I beat him a couple days earlier," Nguyen said. "He did play probably the best match I've ever seen him play in his life. He played amazing. I just wasn't playing up to where I should have been. He deserved to win, the way he was playing."
Although Nguyen was disappointed with how he did individually, he couldn't have been more proud of how the team did this season.
Sherando lost two players from its top six from last year, which left it a little weaker.
Still the Warriors, led by Nguyen, Trey Scott, Nick Lee and Chris Mikus, advanced to the Region II final for the third consecutive season. They once again met Western Albemarle, which has now won the region title five straight years, in the final.
Sherando gave the powerhouse program a run for its money before falling 5-4.
"That was remarkable that we were able to do that," Nguyen said. "Knowing that we were weaker than last year and still be able to play up to their level and really push them, I don't think they saw it coming."
Even though Nguyen's game was already strong, he said he worked hard in the offseason trying to get stronger.
Nguyen said he also worked hard on improving his mental game.
"Last year when I was down or losing I'd be pretty angry with myself, I'd get pretty mad," Nguyen said. "This year it really wasn't like that at all. This year I knew I was just out there to have fun. I really didn't let anything get me off my game."
Nguyen said he hopes to have even more success in college. He said he was being looked at by Division I schools George Mason, Longwood and Liberty, but decided after last season that he didn't want to play at the Division I level due to the time and commitment it takes.
Nguyen said academics are important to him, and will always come first. He plans on majoring in chemistry, with hopes of becoming a pharmacist.
After looking around, Nguyen said he knew Mary Washington was the perfect fit for him.
"The guys are all great, they're all smart," Nguyen said. "The school has good academics. Their coach is a great guy. I've known him since I was 12, going to USTA tournaments. He's probably one of the best coaches in D-3 tennis. He has a great program."
Nguyen said Mary Washington should have a great team for the next few years, and he hopes to at some point be able to play at the No. 1 singles spot.
If he can carry over the success he had at Sherando, the Eagles should have a strong team for the next four years.
As a team, the Warriors lost only four matches in the last three years. The Warriors had struggled in previous years, and Nguyen said it was great to see the program get better.
"Myself, Trey [Scott] and Trevor [Scott] really turned the program around in a year or two," Nguyen said. "I knew I was a good tennis player, but I didn't think I would have that big of an impact on a team. Trevor and Trey and I really left our mark on Sherando tennis history. It's been great."