Patience pays dividends for doubles team from Priory

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Now that they've won a state championship in doubles, several nicknames apply — Dynamic Duo, Double Trouble, Twin Tormenters, Terrific Twosome.

Call them what you want, St. Louis Priory School's Victor Djavaherian and Patrick Milburn are splendid on the tennis court, picking up the Class 1 state title in doubles with a 6-4, 6-2 win against Nathan Turtledove and Garrett Kincaid of Pembroke Hill. The seniors also helped Priory's team finish second in Class 1, edged out by Pembroke Hill 5-2.

Djavaherian and Milburn's competitive edge is witnessed by a game within the game that they played this year, a "nutmeg bet" that's a takeoff of a soccer technique of directing the ball intentionally between the legs of an opposing player. They tried to keep track of who hit the tennis ball between the legs of an opponent the most times during the season. Milburn said he outscored his friend, but Djavaherian claimed a tie. It was agreed that Djavaherian had a nutmeg in the semifinals and Milburn had one in the finals.

Tennis has been a big part of their lives. They'll both continue playing for fun, maybe on club teams in college or maybe not. Either way, on a sweltering morning June 12, they were playing outside at Creve Coeur Racquet Club.

The state champs met each other around seventh grade as Priory students and went to the CORE Junior Tennis Academy at Creve Coeur Racquet Club. They were partnered and realized they had similar styles. In high school, they continued playing together; they knew each other's tendencies and how to make adjustments on their strengths and weaknesses.

Priory was perhaps a top five team each year in their class but in the past three years was stopped by a superb MICDS team. Four of the top six players on MICDS graduated last year, so "we knew we had a really good chance to get out of districts," Milburn said. "We had a lot of upperclassmen (in previous years) who were really good players but could never get out of districts because MICDS was such a powerhouse.

A 5-4 win after MICDS took a 4-1 lead in the district finals was "a game-changer," Milburn said. "We finally got over the hump that was MICDS." The Priory duo scored a 6-0, 6-2 win in sectionals, 6-0, 6-0 win in quarterfinals and a 6-3, 6-3 win in the semifinals.

In the team final, the No. 1 team from Pembroke Hill defeated Djavaherian and Milburn. So the Priory duo "knew we had to elevate our game" for the doubles final, Milburn said. He and Djavaherian stayed focused on and off the course, went to bed at an "unheard of" 10 o'clock, stretched, had a good warmup and won.

It was probably the biggest moment of his tennis life, Djavaherian said. "I tried to treat it like any other match. Off the court beforehand I was pretty nervous," he said. "But once I got on the court and started hitting some balls it was just tennis again."

Milburn added: "We knew Priory had never won a state title and the last Priory players to win an individual state title was in 1986, also a doubles team. We knew how special of a chance it was. Priory has played a big part in my life, six of the last 18 years. The Priory community has influenced me in so many ways. It was nice to represent them and bring home a trophy for them."

Djavaherian agreed: "Priory's shaped me so much in the past six years. To be able to give back to the school in this way is really special."

The tennis players were active in several other areas of the school, including as president and vice president of the investment club.

Milburn enjoys both the physical and mental sides of tennis, knowing that there are many strategies to use to win a match. He follows his dad's advice to say a prayer before soccer games and tennis matches. "It's always about 'letting go and letting God," he said. "Letting whatever happens happen because it's the way God wanted it."

It's helped him on the court because being a good Catholic means finding inner peace and staying in control, Milburn said.

Djavaherian called the doubles team "another extension of our friendship." He credits coach Kurt Miller, with helping him stay focused on the court, reminding him to think about tactics. Experience also helps.

"I love tennis for a lot of reasons," Djavaherian said. "I love points where you're scrambling all over the place. Just hitting a really nice shot. Obviously, there's the social aspect, playing with your friends, playing with your team. Then there's the challenge of it, the hard work aspect. That's something I'm probably going to miss, but I don't really realize it yet." 

Other standouts

Andrew Woodman and Clayton Maack of Christian Brothers College High School won the Class 2 doubles tennis title, 7-5, 6-3 over Brian Baker and Jake Frauerfelder of Columbia Rock Bridge. The CBC sophomores won earlier in the playoffs, 6-4, 6-1; 6-0, 6-2; and 6-2, 6-2. They won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 in districts.

Priory's varsity golf team placed second in the state tournament in Class 3 in Sedalia. Team members were senior Andrew Stange (7th individually, all-state) junior Ben Blase, sophomore Gulshan Kodwani, freshmen Alex Garza and Peter Weaver (9th individually, all-state) . 

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