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Pair of state champs lead Saints on tennis court | Prep sports feature
Luat Le remembers the first time he faced Connor Garnett on the tennis court, even though half a decade has passed since the encounter.
The pair were preparing for a club tournament match and Le, two years the elder, had heard rumblings of the prodigy from not only coaches and other competitors, but from Garnett himself.
"He used to tell me, 'I'm coming for you," Le said. "He always told me to watch out."
Le said he erased an early deficit to win that initial match and while the two would rarely meet again on the club circuit, their paths have become intertwined during prep careers that have brought unprecedented individual and team success to the Interlake program.
Le won the district championship en route to the 2A state title in 2010 as a sophomore and along with Garnett, helped Interlake to its first ever team title in boys tennis last year.
The two went toe-to-toe during practices throughout the 2011 season and faced off twice during the playoffs, first in the district tournament and again for the 2A state championship, which Garnett won 6-1, 6-3.
"Last season, winning state, was a dream season," head coach Matthew Perelman said. "I knew this year would be a different road being in 3A and I was really excited to have both of these guys back as co-captains."
Le did not lose a single set en route to the title match against his then-freshman teammate, and entered the finals with a perfect 7-0 record in two state tournaments. Garnett was perfect throughout the 2011 2A state tournament, including the win in the title match, and has battled through an injury to qualify for the Sea-King tournament in the spring along with Le.
"It's a great team environment at practice," Garnett said. "We have been able to get in some great work."
Interlake coach Matthew Perelman said while the jaunts through the postseason and state titles have no doubt been a highlight for both the players and himself, it has been the budding relationship between his top two competitors that has been the most exciting to see.
"Luat handles himself incredibly gracefully," Perelman said. "Both guys wanted to do whatever it took to help the team."
The coach said there was perhaps no more spirited match of the season than the 4-3 win over crosstown and defending 4A boys state champion Newport, which he saw as another nod to the mindset Le and Garnett have helped foster throughout the team and program.
Even though Garnett got the best of their two postseason clashes last year, Le isn't quite ready to pass the torch just yet. With a state title of his own and one final shot at another, this time in 3A, Le said he is open and ready if the challenge of facing his teammate arises again.
"We had a great season," he said. "We have the whole winter to train. Maybe I'll see him in the finals."
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