Boys tennis rebuilds to win state

On May 12, 2012, Westminster Boys Varsity Tennis defeated Blessed Trinity to win the state title. Strong doubles preparation and team bonding led the team to victory against BT, an opponent they had beaten previously in the season. However, with a team that had to replace five of seven starters, the 2012 season was certainly a rebuilding year, a rebuilding year that resulted in astounding success.

Entering the state tournament ranked third, the championship left the players in an ecstatic mood.

“It feels great to be a Champion, said Walker Duncan, freshman, who filled the number one singles spot on the team. “We are the best in the state.”

“I’m pretty darn excited,” said junior Jimmy White, who played on the number two doubles team. “It was a great experience for me, especially starting in the top seven.”

The coaches agree with the players, echoing their pride in the team’s accomplishments, but pointing out that the team’s success wasn’t always assured.

“The bottom line is that our expectations for the season were optimistically high,” said head coach, Wade Boggs. “We had to replace five out of the seven starters on the team this year, and when you do that you never know for sure how things are going to turn out. We ended up with a record of 20 wins and four losses, and the only matches we lost were in the rotary tournament. We won every single regular season match that we played, so all three coaches, Kevin Mylod, Ralph Geeza, and I were just extremely pleased, ecstatic even about how well the season turned out.”

This success was achieved through a hard fought battle in Clayton, Georgia, where the team fielded three singles players and two doubles teams.

“In the state finals,” said White, “our number one singles player, Walker Duncan, defeated BT’s Andrew Barnes in two sets, 6-2, 6-3.”

“I was really impressed with the poise of Walker Duncan, who is a freshman playing number one,” said Boggs, “because although we had some crowd support there, the reality was that the BT player, Andrew Barnes, had his mother, father, sister, and I think grandparents right there beside the court cheering for him. So Walker really had to keep his cool, which he did, and he beat a senior, a very experienced player, which was exciting.”

“Spain Short, our number two singles player, faced Matt Maron, who unfortunately pulled that out, as Maron is a very a good player, said White. “Stephen Solms, who has been one of the very solid spots on our team this year played number three singles against Jack Quigly, or ‘Quigs’, as the guys on the team like to call him. Stephen won 6-1, 6-0, so he certainly had no trouble with ‘Quigs’.”

With victories in two out of the three singles matches, the team’s two doubles teams cemented the championship.

“Number two doubles, which I played with [sophomore] Will Anderson, had no trouble with BT’s team,” said White. “We’d beaten them pretty handily earlier in the season and we just had to stay humble.”

The number one doubles team’s story highlights the triumph of the team’s rebuilding and doubles team efforts.

“Number one doubles was perhaps the most contentious match,” said White. “Senriors Ben Zacks and Peter Bryant had lost both matches they played against the number one doubles team from BT during the season, so their victory was very uncertain. But Bryant and Zacks came out there really motivated to show their stuff, and it paid off. They ended up winning the first set 6-4 before the match was called for Westminster.”

Coaches also recognized the improvement showed by Bryant and Zacks.

“Number one doubles played their best match of the season in the finals of state,” said Boggs. “After wining the first set, they were behind 4-1 in the second set when we won state, but they just played a great match.”

Going into the match, the team felt confident but motivated.

“We had defeated BT twice earlier in the year and we figured that we had their number,” said White. “The championship was definitely ours for the taking.”

Freshman Walker Duncan, the number one singles player for the team, also knew that on an individual level, victory was within his grasp.

“I played the [BT player, Andrew Barnes] twice before, in the regular season and then in the region match, so I knew the task I was faced with,” said Duncan. “On the other hand, I knew we had to defeat our biggest rival, Blessed Trinity, so I expected it would be a hard match.”

Mental preparation proved crucial to the victory.

“Mentally, we just had to stay humble,” said White. “We knew that we needed to not take the match for granted because if we had then BT would have definitely been able to upset us. Luckily we stayed humble and calm and pulled it out.”

Physical training played a critical role as well, especially the focus on doubles that dominated practice.

“We knew fairly early in the tryouts who was going to be on the team and who was going to be able to play which position,” said Boggs, “so what we did was focus on doubles from the second or third week of tryouts all the way to the end of the season. That really paid off because we won a lot of matches with our two points of doubles, one and two, and number two doubles especially came through for us the entire season in the state tournament.”

“We really worked on our doubles because that’s the backbone of what Westminster tennis is all about, said White. “We don’t necessarily have the best single’s players, although we generally do, but what practice really centers around is doubles play.”

Next years team, with so many returning starters, will face different challenges.

“Instead of replacing five people we have five people coming back,” said Boggs. “It will be hard to replace the leadership of the Ben Zacks and Peter Bryant, who graduated, but we are excited about the season next year and optimistic. BT will not be in AA anymore as they are moving to AAA, but we still have plenty of competition with Lovett, GAC, and Wesleyan moving up from A to AA.”

“We don’t lose any of the top 3 players so we could start the same lineup again,” said Duncan. “Next year is looking just as good as this year, if not better.”

In short, the team’s rise from just two returning players to a state championship team showcases the success of 2012 as a rebuilding year.

“Basically it was a rebuilding year and we ended up with a 20 and 4 record and won state,” said Boggs. “Sometimes your lucky to do that with a really experienced squad.”