Over the course of three days, Matthew Staton played at three different tennis facilities on the Virginia peninsula.
The weather and previously scheduled events moved Staton from Huntington Park in Newport News Thursday to Old Dominion University Friday to James River Country Club in Newport News Saturday.
Through all the last-minute changes, Staton remained focused in establishing himself as the first Prince William County tennis player to win a state title since Brentsville’s boys doubles team captured the Group A championship in 1975.
On Saturday, the Colgan freshman defeated Lake Braddock’s Dustin Ha 6-3, 6-1 in the Class 6 state boys singles championship.
Brentsville's Doug Laughin is the last county player to win a state individual title in tennis when he captured the Group A boys title in 1973. Stonewall Jackson graduate Jimmy Davis is the last county player to compete for a state tennis title when he lost in the Group AAA championship in 2010.
“He’s already above everyone else talent-wise,” said Colgan tennis coach Jasen Viggiani. “What impresses me the most is his mental toughness. You can’t get into his head.”
The Class 6 state final was originally scheduled for Huntington Park, a location just across the street from the hotel where Viggiani was staying. But Saturday’s rain forced officials to find another site. ODU was supposed to host the state finals after becoming the alternate site Friday for states.
But Viggiani learned Saturday morning at 8 from the VHSL that ODU was no longer available because it was hosting a Universal Tennis Rating Tournament.
Playing at a facility in Virginia Beach was a possibility, but that meant holding the match at 5 or 6 p.m., a too long of wait for players who were prepared to start at 10 a.m. VHSL officials revisited Huntington Park again Saturday and the teams reported there to play at noon. But the rain continued to pose a challenge.
Viggiani and the Lake Braddock coach discussed the possibility of playing the match back in Northern Virginia. Competing Sunday was also brought up.
But then VHSL official Tom Dolan notified the coaches that the James River Country Club was available. The final began around 1 p.m. and finished just under an hour and 15 minutes later with Staton the champion.
“I’ve played on lots of courts,” said Staton, the top-ranked freshman in Virginia, according to tennisrecruiting.net. "Each and every time I warm up to get a feel for the court and I get used to it. It doesn’t take too long, but it’s a factor.”
Staton and the George Mason University-bound Ha knew each other from playing years ago at the Fairfax Racquet Club, but they had never faced each other until Saturday.
Staton kept the pressure on Ha with the plan of wearing him out and not letting him use his effective backhand to his advantage.
“I wanted to give him no space to breathe,” Staton said.
Staton was the main attraction this weekend, but kept his success in perspective.
“I was told it was a big deal,” Staton said. “But I live in the moment. Even though it is a big deal, I’m a freshman. I went in knowing I had to play well for a chance to win.”
He and teammate Rebhi Villasmil Rodriquez won Thursday’s Class 6 state doubles semifinal at Huntington Park. Staton then won his singles semifinal Friday over Cosby’s Connor Johnson, 6-0, 6-0 before he and Villasmil Rodriquez lost to Chantilly that afternoon in the doubles final 6-2, 6-2.
“He walks into the tournament and there are seniors and former players coming up to him,” Viggiani said. “They know him. He’s the hot ticket, the one everyone wanted to watch.”