Two boys high school tennis teams; each seeking to make a statement in the Class AAA state championship on Saturday.
Chapin’s plan was to prove to the rest of the schools in the classification to notice that Eagles tennis is about “team,’’ not players.
Nation Ford wanted to prove it belonged among Class AAA’s elite just five seasons after opening its doors to students as the second high school in Fort Mill.
Give this round to Chapin (21-2), which won every match in a 6-0 victory. But don’t pity the Falcons, who came a long way this season.
“It was easy to see our players, as well as me, started the day with a case of nerves,’’ Nation Ford coach Billy McKinney said. “But we settled down and there were actually a lot of close and important points Chapin won that would have put us in contention had they gone our way.
“A region championship, the Upper State title, second best in the state. We had a good season and only two teams got this far. I’m glad I was around to be part of it.’’
One by one the Falcons (18-6) went down to the Eagles, who won a 4-2 match between the two in a preseason tournament. Chapin coach Rodgers called the first meeting his team’s toughest match this season.
And as each Chapin player came off the court and stepped through the gate, another point went into the Eagles’ scorebook. And then, they watched.
Players, coaches, parents and fans gathered around the court where the No.; 2 players, Nation Ford’s Danny Randar and Chapin’s Jeffrey Koch finished the tiebreaker that ended their match.
Randar’s 6-3 win that evened the match was the lone set won by the Falcons. Koch pressed, playing as if every stroke mattered, and won the extra game, 12-10.
The closest any other Nation Ford player would come was Stephen Zoeller’s 6-4, 6-4 loss to Alex Arkin in No. 3 singles.
Chapin proved its point, winning the championship for the third straight season.
“We have a couple of players who were part of the first two championships, but we wanted to show we’re more about team than individuals,’’ John Rodgers said. “This year’s players; this was their team. They know we beat another pretty good team.’’
To reach the championship match, the Falcons had get past Fort Mill and, after a one-day rain delays, defeated the Yellow Jackets 5-1 last Wednesday. That was followed by a 4-2 win over Wade Hampton on Thursday on a pair of tiebreak victories in the Upper State championship match.
Ben Herman/Chris Tapp outlasted Brian Steele/Richard Mahaffey 5-7, 6-3, 10-7. But the match decider was Mahrlig’s 7-5, 3-6, 11-9 win over Chance Nardone.
“None of us had to say anything to Chase,’’ McKinney said of the Upper State title match. “There were maybe 70 people leaning on the fence on their court and he knew what he had to do.
“We fought through a lot of adversity. We were on the road playing in front of a rowdy crowd. But when the match ended on Chase’s win, our players started hollering and running all over the court. It was a good ride home.’’
McKinney was a speedy 5-foot-8 point guard for Parkwood High School. But he found tennis later and fell in love. McKinney played in adult team leagues and became a certified teaching pro.
This is his first season at Nation Ford. The Falcons were 8-5 and perfect in Region 4-AAA.
“As the pro in Fort Mill, I have taught nearly all the boys and girls playing at Fort Mill and Nation Ford,’’ McKinney said. “Our teams have a good relationship and tennis is starting to grow again in Fort Mill.
CHAPIN 6, NATION FORD 0
No. 1: Sean Koch def. Madison Ott, 6-0, 6-2. No.2: Jeffrey Koch def. Danny Randar, 6-2, 3-6, (12-10). No. 3: Alex Arkin def. Stephen Zoeller 6-4, 6-4; No. 4: Augie Kibler def. Chase Mahlrig, 6-2, 6-2. No. 5. Michael Nichols def. David Habbick, 6-0, 6-0.
No. 2: Zac Murray/Duncan Bowen def. Chris Tapp/Ben Herman, 6-3, 6-1