Wednesday, May 21, 2014
A fired-up Waccamaw High boys tennis team reclaimed the Class AA state tennis championship on Saturday in Columbia, defeating Christ Church 5-2 in a hard-fought match between the two best teams in the state.
“This is it, this is the finals,” coach Lynn Hunt told his team gathered at courtside for the final huddle of the season. “I want you to go out there in good sportsmanship and play the best tennis you’ve ever played in your life.”
The Warriors did, tenaciously holding off a determined effort by the Cavaliers to retain the title they won from the Warriors last year.
At No. 1 singles, Paul Hendrix delivered crafty ground strokes that resulted in a 6-2, 6-1 victory over hard-hitting Hayes Sherman.
Waccamaw’s No. 2 player, Justin Dunn, fought back from a first set 2-6 loss to win the second set 6-0, but he could not hold off the fierce forehand of Wes Quattlebaum, losing the tie breaker 9-11.
Down 4-0 in the first set, senior Joey Hewes, battled stroke for stroke to defeat Julian Gallus 6-4, 7-5 at No. 3 singles.
Hewes, sitting on the ground in focused concentration between sets, played with unswerving determination.
“I’ve never seen Joey fight so hard, he is not giving up to this guy, he is going to pound it out,” senior Kevin Mushock said as he watched the battle.
Sophomore Ben Hewes, who won most of his matches all season, found himself struggling on court four against the precise ground strokes of Jim Pennell, and lost 2-6, 1-6 at No. 4.
With the singles matches tied at 2-2, that left it up to Waccamaw’s Jaz Greene to pull out a victory at No. 5 to give the Warriors the advantage going into doubles play.
If Greene felt the pressure, he never showed it, as he was unflappable even as his match came down to a nail-biting third set tie breaker.
Acknowledging his supportive crowd during change-overs, Greene in his characteristic enthusiastic style smiled and nodded to his teammates as if it was just another day on the courts.
After winning the tiebreaker 10-6, Greene steadied himself as he was mobbed on the court with congratulatory hugs from his teammates.
With the singles matches concluded and the score 3-2, it was now left to the two doubles teams to secure the state title.
“We have been waiting for this all year and we are ready,” said senior Woody Tudor before he took the court.
“That’s right,” echoed his partner, Parker Brinson. “We are bringing our A game, and they better be ready for us.”
The pair’s confidence was evident as they began to chisel away at the points that separated them from a state championship. It was obvious they wanted to deliver the final blow that would capture the state title for their team.
The team of Brinson and Parker was part of Hunt’s plan to secure the state title.
“This duo has worked consistently over the past several months to perfect their doubles game,” Hunt said before the doubles match. “I have full confidence in Parker and Woody to close this out for us right here and right now. This will be an excellent match.”
With the score at 6-3, 5-1, Hunt called Brinson and Parker to the fence for a few last words of encouragement.
After they returned to the court to receive service, match point could not have been planned more tactically. Tudor steadied himself at the net with Brinson in the backcourt to receive the serve. Brinson firmly gripped his racket in the backswing position and planted his right foot at a perfect 45-degree angle to the net. Driving his racket forward in textbook style, Brinson won the point, the pair won the match 6-3, 6-1, and the Warriors won the state title.
Hendrix and Dunn were well-aware of what the cheers from the No. 2 doubles court meant, but they were not about to let up. Looking for a little redemption from his singles loss, Dunn worked with his partner to finish the Cavaliers off with a 6-2, 6-3 win.
“I told this team how proud I was of them this morning, and there are no words to describe how proud I am of them now,” said an elated Hunt as the Warriors received the state championship trophy.
The Warriors went home with the trophy they won in 2012 and lost to Christ Church last year.