Reagan tennis wins showdown for first

Published 9:19 am Thursday, April 18, 2019

When the Davie and Reagan tennis teams squared off last week on back-to-back days, it was for all the marbles in the Central Piedmont Conference. Both were undefeated in the league. Both are head and shoulders above everyone else.

“This is how it is supposed to be – the best two teams meeting the last week of the CPC regular season for the title,” coach Shane Nixon said. “For the second straight year, we and Reagan were in that position. It makes the matches really fun.”

When all was said and done, it was Reagan on top and Davie playing the role of bridesmaid for the second year in a row. But the War Eagles were close to tying for first. They were so close.

In the first meeting in Pfafftown on April 9, though, the War Eagles had horror flashbacks in a 7-2 loss. Last year they were pounded 9-0 twice by Reagan.

Davie, which had blasted nine previous opponents by an aggregate 70-11, dug a 4-2 hole in singles.

“To be honest, I just sort of had that feeling that ‘this isn’t going to happen,’” Nixon said. “As guy after guy came off the court, it began to feel inevitable that we would not win.”

Luke Stillson, who won 6-4, 3-6 (10-7) at No. 4, and Jack Nixon, who won 7-5, 6-4 at No. 5, kept Davie alive going into doubles. But Reagan swept doubles to move to 8-0 in the CPC, one win ahead of Davie (7-1).

“Luke and Jack gave us a shot going into doubles,” Nixon said. “Both of them played tight, long matches. Our theory is that splits are about heart, not tennis. It is about who wants it more. Luke came through in that situation. Jack’s match was tough. The guy he played took pace off every ball and tried to slow the game down and frustrate Jack. Kudos to him for not letting the guy in his head.”

Two War Eagles in singles and two doubles teams suffered their first losses of the year. C Crenshaw and Cren Rosenbaum slipped to 9-1. Ben Fleming/Crenshaw and Stillson/Nixon fell to 6-1 and 5-1, respectively.

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The rematch was held the next day at Davie. Considering Reagan had outscored Davie 25-2 across three meetings in two seasons, you were probably figuring, “This isn’t going to be much fun; Reagan is flat-out better.” You would have been … wrong.

Demonstrating tons of heart and tenacity, the War Eagles pushed Reagan to the limit in a 5-4 thriller.

“My feeling was much different,” Nixon said. “I could see in my guys’ eyes that they wanted it. I talked to them before the match about what it really means to believe something. To believe in something is for it to hurt when that thing doesn’t happen. I asked them to believe in this match so much it would hurt if we didn’t get it done.”

No. 4 Stillson (7-5, 6-2) and No. 5 Nixon (6-1, 6-1) repeated their triumphs from the first meeting.

“Luke didn’t need a split to get it done this time,” Nixon said. “Boy, did he battle hard. He really took control and made the second set look a lot easier than it was. Jack took control early and never let up. It doesn’t seem to matter where or who he plays, he just keeps winning.”

In remarkable role reversals, No. 2 Crenshaw and No. 3 Rosenbaum beat opponents who dropped them the day before. Crenshaw won 6-1, 2-6 (10-8). Rosenbaum’s margins were 6-3, 6-4.

Lo and behold, Davie held a 4-2 lead after singles.

“To completely flip the script and be up 4-2 was amazing,” Nixon said. “The effort I got in this match was incredible. C beat a guy who got votes for CPC Player of the Year last year. C’s freshman season now has a win against every team we’ve played and only one loss – one he avenged with this win.

“Cren was playing with an immense amount of pressure. He is trying to balance his first love (theater) with his other love (tennis). He has done a remarkable job making it all work, and I appreciate his commitment to both. He played so well. He also beat an all-CPC player from last year.”

The fairy dust ran out on Davie in doubles. Fleming/Crenshaw and Stillson/Nixon traded heavyweight punches at Nos. 1-2 doubles, respectively. They came agonizingly close in 8-5 losses.

“All the credit goes to coach Scott Larson and Reagan,” Nixon said. “They are a really good team. Both matches were tight and the second one was a classic. They swept us in doubles both days, and that is the mark of a champion.”

Reagan (14-1, 9-0) has a five-match winning streak since its only loss, 5-4 to Page. It has taken 10 of 12 meetings from Davie.

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The War Eagles closed the book on their CPC regular season in style, whipping East Forsyth 9-0 on the road on April 11.

The singles winners were Fleming (6-4, 6-4), Crenshaw (6-4, 6-3), Nixon (6-2, 6-1), Stillson (6-2, 6-1), Mike Werbeck (6-1, 6-0) and Seth Hill (6-2, 6-1). The doubles winners were Fleming/Crenshaw (8-4), Stillson/Nixon (8-1) and Ben Norman/Sammy Rosenquist (11-9).

At 10-2 overall, the War Eagles reached double-figure wins for the fourth year in a row. (A while back, they locked up a ninth straight winning season.)

The 1-2 spots in the CPC were the same as 2018, with Reagan at 10-0 and Davie at 8-2.

“After the tough loss, I told my guys that you learn more about yourself in adversity than in prosperity,” said Nixon, who is 59-24 in five years. “I challenged them to respond to the loss well. Boy, did they ever.”

Werbeck and Hill, a freshman, picked up their first career wins in singles. For the season, Fleming is 9-3 at one singles; Crenshaw is 11-1 at two; Rosenbaum is 10-1 at three/four/five; Stillson is 10-0 at three/four/five; and Nixon is 11-0 at three/four/five.

“10-2 is a good season by anyone’s estimation,” he said. “We’d have loved to have split with Reagan and gotten a share of the CPC title, but that didn’t happen. Now we turn our attention to two nonconference matches and then postseason play. Our goals for the season are, for the most part, still intact.”