KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Sports often bring together a mix of people.
“We have an exchange student from Finland. We have me — I’m pretty weird,” Pembroke Hill junior Armaan Yarlagadda said. “Our No. 1 is a pretty different character.”
This year, the Pembroke Hill boys tennis team had the right mix to bring home the state title.
“Both teams competed so hard, and we’re just overjoyed at the moment and all the hard work,” head coach Scott Hanover said.
Of course, there was plenty of motivation to win after the ball didn’t drop their way last year.
“Several times at practice we had out last year’s 2nd place district trophy, and nobody wanted to display or show that off,” Hanover said.
“Looking back at that trophy and looking back at that memory of what happened last season really motivated us to fight harder this year,” Trey Lambright said.
“My brother and I were both on the team, and his final match was losing in the district match — the worse disappointment I ever felt on a tennis court,” Yarlagadda said of last year’s ending. “So coming back this year and being able to right those wrongs meant a lot.”
To win the state title they had to beat Marquette out of the St. Louis area. For a team title, these tennis players focused their matches with a bit of an eye to the other.
“It is kind of hard not to be looking at your teammates and trying not to keep them going during those matches,” Lambright said. “But it’s important that you focus on your individual match as well as the big picture.”
Lambright was the singles runner-up at state, but a 5-3 team win meant the Raiders were state champions regardless.
“Feels great to get what we wanted,” Lambright said.
“It’s always a goal for a school like us in a sport like this, and I was just so happy,” Yarlagadda said.
At Pembroke, they have a tradition of signing the back of the state championship trophy, and this year, the Raiders get to do it again.