Prep boys' tennis • Rowland Hall players credit fans for helping the team's success at the state tourney.
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It's always a mistake to underestimate Rowland Hall's Aaron Friedman.
While not overpowering in size or stature, the sophomore has the ability to dominate at the service line and in the volley. Friedman downed Waterford rival, Christian Heath, 6-0, 6-2, by playing bigger-than-himself during last Saturday's Class 2A state meet at Liberty Park.
In earning the No. 3 singles title, Friedman secured a share the 2A state championship for the Winged Lions. Rowland Hall finished with 17 team points to tie Waterford for the state title.
Teammates senior Jon Zubair and junior Karim Shaaban credit Friedman for playing solid throughout the season. Zubair said that Friedman brings a level of confidence to the court reserved for older players.
"A lot of players underestimate him because of his size," Zubair said. "But it never fazes him. He'll do whatever it takes to beat you."
Zubair and Shaabam, who went undefeated in regional play, handled their business at No. 1 doubles by beating Waterford's George Matus and Max Gruber. With the stands packed, they battled through the heat and missed opportunities, rallying for a 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory in the title match.
"We were kinda nervous because we knew it was going to be a tough match," Shaaban said. "It was our third time playing them, and we were expecting a good fight."
Zubair said that he didn't feel pressure entering the tournament after falling short to Manti last season. Even with all of the quality teams in the 2A tournament, Zubair remained focused on playing fundamental tennis and trusting his partner.
"Karim is such a good hitter that I trusted him to make the plays," Zubair said. "It was nice going in without a target on our backs."
With friends and family cheering the pair for every earned point, Shaaban said it helped alleviate any fatigue he felt while battling the opposition and the heat.
"I was so pumped in the finals," Shaaban said. "Even though it was hot, we had so much support from our fans. It felt great to the ride that momentum to a championship."
• Zubair earned a full academic scholarship to the University of Utah and plans to study mechanical engineering.
• Zubair and Shaaban have playing tennis for eight years but only been partners this season.