CLOVER — The Clover High School boys’ tennis team, sporting a 10-1 record in Region 3-AAAA entering this week, continues to thrive despite a youth movement this season.
The Blue Eagles always seem to be contending for region honors and playoff berths, and this year is no exception.
“The continuous success of our program is the result of players willing to sacrifice their time and effort year-round,” said head coach Phil Wingard.
With the high school tennis season drawing to a close after playoffs that begin next week, the offseason commitment begins in June. “We work on conditioning and technique,” said Wingard. “We place much emphasis on keeping the ball in play.”
“If our players can learn to play defense, to return their opponents’ best shots, they will be successful,” he said. “The more they keep the ball in play, the more shots they make, which improves their game.”
Wingard said player development has been the primary emphasis this season because of a roster that includes middle-schoolers eager to learn. “We are a very young team this year,” he said.
The varsity roster includes four seventh-graders, an eighth-grader, two ninth-graders and a half-dozen sophomores. “We develop players during the high school tennis season and the offseason,” Wingard said.
Among the players reaping the benefits of ongoing instruction is freshman Justin White, who plays No. 2 singles.
“I play with intensity and feel confident hitting ground strokes from the baseline,” said White, a third-year varsity participant. “I will charge the net when the opportunity presents itself.”
White considers conditioning a strength late in the match, when stamina issues begin to creep in. “I try to wear down my opponent and create unforced errors,” he said.
While player development is vital, White said, team chemistry is equally important. “We need to play together and remain supportive of each other,” he said.
Andres Leon, a transfer from Fort Mill, is in the No. 1 singles slot this season. Wingard praised Leon, White and all the Blue Eagle players for their commitment to the program.
Wingard said he also appreciates assistant coach Tommy Strohl’s contributions. “Tommy was the Class AA Player of the Year in high school,” he said.
The Blue Eagles continued their region success last week, defeating Northwestern 5-1 and South Pointe 6-0.
• Singles results in the Northwestern match: 1) Andres Leon (c) def. Myles White 6-1, 6-0; 2) Justin White (c) def. Trey Helms 6-1, 6-0; 3) Patrick Smith (c) def. Elliott Goodwin 6-0,6-0; 4) Holden McGill (c) def. Andrew Wamen 6-1,6-0; 5) Thomas Summers (c) def. Gage Thomas 6-1,6-1.
• Doubles: 2) Jacob Pope and Sully Foy (NW) def. Sean Elder and Nick Lyons 6-2,6-4.
In the win against South Pointe, Justin White, Patrick Smith, Garrett Smith and Holden McGill all won singles matches in straight sets.
At No. 2 doubles, Thomas Summers and Gabriel D’Agostino won in three sets to seal the win.