Published: Apr 24, 2007 11:16 AM
Modified: Apr 24, 2007 11:16 AM
The Green Hope High menÂ’s tennis program has been around only eight years, but already it has a legacy Â— six regular-season conference titles.
With a 9-0 win against Fuquay-Varina High on April 19, the Falcons secured title No. 6 and extended their undefeated conference record to 12-0 Â— a feat worthy of a No. 4 ranking among 4-A schools across the state.
The Fuquay win also extended Green HopeÂ’s five-year conference consecutive win tally to 72.
Â“I think itÂ’s kind of in the back of their minds when they play,Â” Green Hope coach Andrew Tuttle said. Â“This year, we havenÂ’t had any close conference matches Â— theyÂ’ve either been 9-0 or 8-1 Â— so I donÂ’t think they really feel the pressure, but they definitely want to keep the streak going and play well against every team.Â”
Despite an impressive 18-3 overall record before facing Lee County on Tuesday, it doesnÂ’t tell the whole story.
The Falcons surrendered only five points to Tri-Eight teams and have only lost to some of the top names in high school tennis Â— local powerhouse and No. 2 4-A team in the state Broughton High; No. 7 Millbrook High; and eight-time South Carolina state champion Bishop England High earlier in the year.
Not bad for a school that is an average of 63 years younger than its defeaters.
But the seemingly instant success for the Falcons begs the question, how did they get so good so fast?
Â“We have a lot of guys who practice year round and theyÂ’re a pretty close group,Â” Tuttle said. Â“We have eight seniors who go out and hit with each other during the whole off-season Â— the summer, the winter.Â”
Of the 14 players, there are only three underclassmen and an octet of senior leaders. Outside of the teamÂ’s daily weekday practices and games, itÂ’s not uncommon to find most of them practicing together, picking up extra time on the courts and additional time to become accustomed to each otherÂ’s style.
And of course it doesnÂ’t hurt to have a No. 1 player who can hit a 100-plus mph serve.
Senior Alex Wetherell, a UNC Wilmington recruit, has only given up two singles matches this season Â— both to Cary HighÂ’s Justin Radloff Â— and owns a 19-0 record with doubles partner Taylor Elliott, who is also the lone freshman on the team.
With the regular season coming to an end and the conference tournament and NCHSAA 4-A state tournament looming, Wetherell has his sights on the top prize.
Â“ThereÂ’s more competition in states,Â” he said. Â“IÂ’ve had some tough matches in the conference, but as a team, weÂ’ve been really strong in the conference and IÂ’m looking forward more to the state tournament.Â”
Somewhat surprisingly, being at the top hasnÂ’t been pressure-filled for Wetherell and his teammates. And not even for their coach, who has a senior-heavy squad and a challenging year ahead.
In fact, they seem to be itching for more.
Â“We probably wonÂ’t even be the favorite to win the conference next year and continue the streak,Â” Tuttle said. Â“But thatÂ’s kind of a good role, too, because theyÂ’ll want to work even harder to keep the Green Hope legacy going.Â”