Wildcats blanked in final after rousing win

The season ended in defeat, but Marshall Paulk will remember the comeback he used to clinch Westminster’s spot in the final two.

Even so, following a close win in the semifinals, the Wildcats boys tennis team lost to Stratford Academy, 5-0, in the GISA Class AAA boys state team finals Wednesday at Newman Tennis Center. It was Westminster’s first appearance in the state championship round since 2007.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Westminster coach Leisa Tebbs said. “It’s a goal I’ve been working on since 2007.”

Though Stratford swept all the sets in the championship match, Westminster pulled out a thriller just to get to the final.

With the team score 2-2 against The Weber School, the outcome depended on Paulk’s result.

Paulk first rallied from a loss in the first set by taking the second. He then carried momentum into the third, going up 5-2.

He lost the next game, but he served for the match up 5-3. Paulk had limited trouble in finishing the clincher, hitting a shot near the line to push his team to the final.

“I just try to block it out,” Paulk said about the attention and pressure. “Every good shot, I pump myself up.”

Paulk was also the last one playing in the final – he fought cramps in a 7-5, 6-0 loss – but his performance wouldn’t change the team’s hopes.

Stratford took wins in all the showdowns, including a 6-1, 6-1 showing at No. 1 singles.

The result leaves Stratford as the top team in the state for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

“It always feels good to win a state championship,” Stratford coach Jaime Kaplan said.

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