Good chemistry: Urbana's Lugez and Liu finish second in Class 4A doubles at states

COLUMBIA — At the start of the high school tennis season, Luc Lugez and Max Liu were paired together for moments like this.

Both have even-keeled personalities that serve them well on the court. Lugez, the older player by a year with a little more doubles experience, is a righty, while Liu is a lefty.

Lugez hits the ball with more spin, while Liu strikes a flatter shot and can set up his partner for volley putaways at the net with his wide serve.

The chemistry and complementary skill sets carried the Urbana High duo a long way this season. Lugez and Liu rolled through the regular season at No. 1 doubles for the Hawks, won county and regional titles without much of a challenge and on Saturday played in the Class 4A boys state doubles final at the Wilde Lake Tennis Club.

Though they fell 6-2, 6-0 to the top seeds from Churchill, freshmen identical twins Aakash and Roshan Deodhar, the experience served Lugez and Liu well and could serve as the foundation for another run at the state title next season if they choose to play together again.

They were 17-1 as a combination this season.

"We just don't get mad at each other," Lugez said. "We are really good friends. We keep good energy the whole time [on the court]. We encourage each other. When one player is playing bad, the other is often playing much better, and we can balance it out."

The state tournament, contested over three days in this case for the 4A and 3A classifications, gave Lugez, a junior, and Liu, a sophomore, a chance to show off their skills together in front of a much larger crowd.

"I just love the atmosphere here," Liu said.

They won a pair of straight-set matches to reach the final before running into the Churchill duo that seemed born to play doubles together.

"When you birth identical twins and one is a lefty and one is a righty, that's something, right?" Urbana coach Jon Walton said of the Churchill pair.

Lugez and Liu were one of three doubles teams from Frederick County to place in the state tournament Saturday.

Oakdale's Nick Novitski and Morgan Overman finished third in mixed doubles for Class 3A after a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Marriotts Ridge's Rafa Feldman and Stella Lee in a consolation match Saturday morning.

Meanwhile, Walkersville's Sidharth Parandapalli and Abigail Lieu placed third in the 2A mixed doubles with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Hereford's Matt Nawrocki and Athena Zhou.

Novitski cruised through another season at No. 1 singles for the Bears and won his second county championship on May 13 with little to no resistance. But he chose to play mixed doubles with Overman because he felt it would be better for the team overall.

"I hit it hard, and he keeps me calm," Overman said when asked what makes her pairing with Novitski so effective.

Mixed doubles teams do not get much of a chance to play together over the course of a season. It's basically the regional and state tournaments, and that's it.

Both Novitski and Overman and Parandapalli and Lieu won three matches to capture regional titles and qualify for states. Then, they won again in the state quarterfinals before losing in the state semifinals Friday to fall into their consolation matches Saturday.

"I think we could have probably played better if we practiced more and had more chances to play together. But that's OK," Novitski said of the third-place finish.

Parandapalli and Lieu both played No. 1 singles at Walkersville this season before deciding that their best chance to do well in the state tournament was in mixed doubles.

"We are friends and love playing together," Lieu said. "We have good chemistry."

After falling into a 0-3 deficit in the first set against Nawrocki and Zhou of Hereford, Parandapalli and Lieu reset themselves with a strong service game from Parandapalli and rattled off 12 straight games to take third place in 2A.

"It's really good because it's her last high school match," Parandapalli, a junior, said of his senior teammate.