No stranger to young stars coming in and taking the state by storm, Jesuit has found its future centerpiece in Peter Murphy.
A quiet but confident freshman, Murphy wasn't particularly caught off-guard by his roaring success in his maiden voyage as the Crusaders' top singles player. Winning the Metro League district championship as well as a Class 6A state title as a solo standout weren't unanticipated accomplishments as they were carefully calculated measures toward bigger goals down the road.
"Honestly, I had that belief the whole season," Murphy said. "I think a lot of people doubted, but me and some of my family members and coaches really knew what this could be. I've been playing since I was 6, 7 years old. I've been in numerous national experiences where there was even more pressure than (state). I drew on that and knew I could do this."
For his efforts, Murphy is one of three finalists nominated for the Prep Male Tennis Player of the Year award, which will be handed out at the Oregon Sports Awards ceremony on Sunday, June 18, at the Tiger Woods Center on Nike World Headquarters. Murphy is one of three Metro League male athletes nominated for OSA's. Jesuit junior Josh Schumacher is a candidate for Prep Male Cross Country Runner of the Year after starring for the co-Metro cross country champion Crusaders in the fall. Schumacher also won the 3,000 meters while taking second in the 1,500 during the track season.
Beaverton junior Van Mathias is a nominee for Prep Male Swimmer of the Year after winning the 100-yard backstroke and 100 butterfly at the 6A state championship meet this year. Mathias set a state record in the butterfly with his 48.61 finish.
Beating a player as talented as Grant's Andrew Finkelman was no easy task in the semifinals for Murphy, nor was one-upping archenemy Westview junior Luke Lemaitre in the state championship clash for the third time this season.
Finkelman was the 6A's runner-up last season after losing to Grant senior Dylan King and came back for his senior season hungry to keep the crown on the Eastside.
Yet, Murphy moved Finkelman around the court and stayed patient.
"I tried to make him come to me," Murphy said. "I didn't feel like I had to press or do anything special. I just had to play my game and have fun with it. There was no pressure, no expectations going into the match. I have to play loose to play well. (Finkelman) was the senior. He had all the pressure. I just had to play each point because I was just happy to be here."
Murphy was the main attraction during the state championship, playing a connected, mature, yet entertaining brand of tennis that superseded his age and youthful appearance.
"It was a great feeling having everybody watching me, especially on center court with the whole crowd behind me," Murphy said. "I'm really happy with the way I played. That's really the main thing — coming out strong, playing well and smart. Win or lose, as long as you play great, you can't take anything away."
Murphy credited assistant coach Aaron Gross, the head men's tennis coach at the University of Portland who's essentially a special adviser to the Crusader squad, for helping him settle his mental thoughts with daily meditation sessions during the postseason.
By taking deep breaths, resetting after poor stretches of play and refocusing on the goal at hand, Murphy was able to move past losing two match points in the 6A semifinals against Finkelman and ultimately win the match.
"Tennis is 20 percent physical and the rest is mental," Murphy said. "It's a huge part of the game that I think has been overlooked in the past. But now I think being calm and collected as come to light and become a big part of the game."
Through a statewide voting panel consisting of TV, radio and print personalities and respected sports professionals, finalists were nominated and selected after two rounds of voting over the course of the last eight months.
For a list of previous winners, please reference www.oregonsportsawards.com.
Winners for all categories will be revealed during the 65th Oregon Sports Awards presented by Nike.
The show will be hosted by ESPN SportsCenter anchor and University of Oregon alum Neil Everett on Sunday, June 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Stanford Theater in the Tiger Woods Center on the Nike World Headquarters.
Tickets are on sale at www.oregonsportsawards.com and a live broadcast will be available during the show.
The show also will recognize high school and college athletes for their dedication to athletics and giving back to the community through the Play It Forward Award, and to non-profit organizations in Oregon that are committed to getting kids active through the Play It Forward Fund, sponsored by Nike and Providence Health & Services.