Morfuchi Lee called it a slap in the face. Midway through the season, the junior was demoted from his usual No. 1 spot atop the Golden Valley boys tennis lineup. The demotion was the inspiration Lee needed. Lee earned his way back to No. 1 and went on to win a Central California Conference singles championship. For his efforts, Lee is the Sun-Star Tennis Player of the Year.
"Moving down to No. 2 was an eye-opener for me," Lee said. "When it happened, my coach talked to me and inspired me.
"I was disappointed in myself. I kind of got cocky of where I was at.
"It made me refocus and redefine myself."
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It was senior Scott Livesay who took over the No. 1 spot from Lee.
Lee felt Livesay was a big reason for his success this season.
"It helped me a lot to have Scott on the team," Lee said. "He pushed me and he was always there to challenge me in practice."
It took Lee about three weeks to earn back his No. 1 spot and when it came time for the CCC tournament, he dominated.
Lee didn't drop a set on his way to the title.
He went 4-0 in the tournament, including a 6-4, 6-3 win over Turlock freshman Scott Gray in the finals.
"Morfuchi was a changed person," GV tennis coach Jeff Bynes said. "Moving him down to No. 2 was meant to light a fire and it helped him mature and become a better player.
"He won some key matches toward the end of the season and tore up all his opponents at the CCC tournament.
"The question all the coaches always asked was which Morfuchi would show up? He showed why he's by far the best player in the area."
Lee felt he was a different player at the end of the year.
"I quit getting down on myself during matches," Lee said. "If I missed an easy shot, I would beat myself down. I just focused on each point and it helped me become more consistent."
The changes should make Lee the player to beat again next season.
Winning the CCC title earned him a berth in the section playoffs where he was knocked out in the first round.
"I'm excited for next year," he said. "I want to keep improving and hopefully go farther in sections."
Shawn Jansen is a Sun-Star sports reporter. He can be reached at 385-2462 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.