Four state championships in four years might be an elite accomplishment in tennis circles, but Alex Lawson was quick to point out a coveted fifth title was his high school disappointment.
He won doubles titles as a freshman and sophomore, followed by consecutive singles titles as an upperclassman, but the newly-graduated standout from Corona del Sol didn’t get that team title — the Aztecs best chance was his freshman year in a close loss to Brophy — and it’s left him a little bummed.
Such are the standards set, not only by his older sister, Kelsey, who starred at Corona before going to DePaul two years ago, but by his own expectations.
“It became a goal after my freshman year, but it never occurred to me going into high school,” he said of winning four titles.
The 2012 Tribune Player of the Year admitted the 2012 regular season wasn’t much of a challenge — he recalled only one match going to three sets — “but once you get to the state tournament, you can’t have a bad day out there, and you better be ready for a tough match.”
He finally got one in the championship match against Chaparral’s Nolan Bauer, whom Lawson had played against a few times in USTA tournaments.
In above-normal April heat, Bauer stormed out of the gate and won the first set. “He played really, really well,” Lawson said of Bauer. But Lawson countered to win the final two sets, and it re-enforced the belief he could come back from a deficit against a top opponent, a situation he figures will happen often in college tennis.
As a bonus, he won a $2,000 gift to use toward college from the USTA Southwest Tennis Foundation in early May for a combination of tennis, academic and community service achievements. It’ll help pay some of his tuition to Notre Dame this fall, since tennis only offers partial scholarships to student-athletes.
His journey to Notre Dame (which he chose over LSU, Northwestern, Iowa and Mississippi State) begins in mid-August, with a couple USTA tournaments left to play this summer and a top national junior showcase in Kalamazoo, Mich., scheduled for the week before school.
The goal is to make the top six in the Fighting Irish’s lineup as a freshman, but he also knows that the talent and competitive leap to college makes that anything but a guarantee.
Then again, his previous freshman-year predictions turned out for the better four years later.
“I don’t think anyone could have predicted that,” he said of his high school success. “I had high hopes but didn’t think they were that high. It all turned out pretty well. I don’t want to say I overachieved but I think I did a pretty good job. I’m satisfied.”
Mark Heller is the East Valley Tribune sports editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (480) 898-6576.