St. Aloysius eyes another JAMT championship

Published 11:26 am Friday, March 21, 2014

The St. Aloysius Flashes have put together an impressive resumé over the last few years.
Four consecutive division championships. A Class 1A team championship, a runner-up finish, and a handful of individual state titles. And, of course, back-to-back trophies for winning the Julie Abraham Tournament.
While the last item on the list doesn’t carry quite the same weight as being the best in the state, it is one the Flashes take some pride in. For two years running they’ve bested Class 6A programs Warren Central and Vicksburg to claim local bragging rights and the knowledge that they’re one of the best programs around on any level.
“We like to represent the city well. We’re a small 1A school beating two 6A schools. There’s a lot of pride in that,” said St. Al senior Michael Foley, who has won three consecutive Class 1A boys doubles championships. “I’m certainly proud of our accomplishments over the years.”
The 22nd annual Julie Abraham Memorial is the centerpiece of a busy weekend on the Halls Ferry Park courts.
Warren Central and Vicksburg played a dual match Thursday afternoon, the JAMT is Saturday at 9 a.m., then Alcorn State and Delta State will play a college match Sunday afternoon at 1:30.
The Flashes will go for their third JAMT championship in a row Saturday when they once again take on crosstown rivals Warren Central and Vicksburg, along with Natchez Cathedral, in an expanded tournament with a new format.
In past years, the JAMT used an individual bracket. This time, it will be a team competition that’s more similar to the format used in most high school matches.
St. Al will play Vicksburg and Warren Central faces Cathedral in the first round. The first team to four points — each match counts for one point — advances to the finals. The losers will play a consolation match.
“Our athletic director (B.J. Smithhart) is trying to grow the tournament and make it a bigger event,” St. Al coach Rick Shields said. “So we added a team and we’ll go from there.”
Unlike the past two years, when St. Al cruised to the JAMT title, Shields said this year’s tournament appears to be a bit more even. St. Al is retooling its lineup a bit while Warren Central and Vicksburg have both improved some since last year’s tournament.
It might make for the most competitive JAMT since Vicksburg won the 2010 edition by a single point over Warren Central.
St. Al still has plenty of talent, though. Five of its players — Foley, Alexa Baldizon, Kori Vessell, and Austin and Aaron Mathis — played for individual state championships last spring. Only Aaron Mathis in boys singles is playing the same role this season, however. The others have either switched from singles to doubles or from one form of doubles to another.
The shuffle has created a different dynamic on a team that used to rely on strong performances from the boys for its points. This time, it’s the girls side that’s stronger.
“We really relied on our guys the last few years, but the girls are progressing quickly,” said Vessell, a senior who will team with Baldizon to play No. 1 girls doubles. “It’s a little more weight on our shoulders, but we’re going to be able to pull through.”

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About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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