Rosenbaum and Bailey to lead tennis team

Published 11:36 am Friday, March 3, 2023

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Coaches loves to remind players that what they do when practice and games are over for the year are important. Mantras like “championships are won in the offseason” and “a winner works as hard out of season as in” are plastered on locker room walls and bellowed from coaches’ mouths more often than you can count. There is a reason for that – the sentiment behind them is absolutely true.

It will likely never have been truer for the Davie boys tennis team than this season. Tennis is unlike some other sports in this context, in that most of the work in the offseason is done independently. Tennis academies, summer tournaments and the like mean the players are not “with their teams” when doing work in the offseason. Even right here in Davie County, ninth-year Davie coach Shane Nixon says, “Our kids go to (private) coaches and work out at places independent of a team setting.”

Nixon recognizes the value of this type of offseason work.  “Davie kids have a wonderful resource in Bermuda Run Country Club. Head Pro Bill Appelt is maybe as big a ‘friend of our program’ as there is. He has made clinics available and affordable to members of the club and non-members alike. All our kids can get out there and participate.”  And many, maybe even most, do.  Some have other local coaches, some play in tournaments year-round.

“All that has never been as important as it is going to be this spring,” Nixon says. “We need to see three or four guys come back to our courts, come back to a team setting, and to have vastly improved their games. It is that simple. If they have, then we might be contenders in the CPC, and if they haven’t, it could be a longer year than we’ve come to expect from our program.”

Whatever else goes on with this team, two seniors will set the tone. Two-time defending CPC Player of the Year Burke Rosenbaum is the guy. Rosenbaum (alongside cousin and partner C Crenshaw, now graduated) made a deep doubles run in the state tournament last year.

“Burke is a joy to coach, a joy to watch and a joy to be a teammate of,” Nixon said. “He genuinely likes being on the team.  He’ll play with the kids who may not be as good skill-wise as hard as he does with those who might challenge him. We know, Burke knows, what we need from him. He will be what he’s been since he stepped on the court for Davie, the best No. 1 in the conference.  That part is a done deal.”

Rosenbaum should hold down the one seed, and almost surely the one doubles, even with a new partner.

Speaking of those who will challenge him and that new partner: “I like to be careful about using comparisons, but if there is someone else in the CPC who has improved as much from freshman to senior as Bryce Bailey, I am not familiar with their work.”

Nixon confesses to nearly cutting Bailey his freshman year; he was the 10th man on the roster. But his progression from then to now has been remarkable. Bailey played mostly three seed last year, and went undefeated and made all-conference from that slot.  He will move up in seeding, likely to the two, and will be paired with Rosenbaum almost surely at one doubles.

“Both guys have played enough tennis this summer to be sharp from day one of our season,” Nixon beams. “I know what to expect at the top of my lineup.”

It is after that where what has been done since last February will matter. Returning players like senior Jack Williams, junior Slade Keaton and a big sophomore class are going to have to play much better than any one of them did individually last year.

“Jack, Slade, Hayden Key and Zach Hill all saw time in the top six (singles) or top three (doubles) last year and are just going to need to be better,” Nixon said. “That group makes me hopeful. I love my returning guys, even some of those who didn’t see a ton of time in the top spots last year. Barret Taylor, Sean Lee and Grayson Busse all are back and I see potential. I really think we could see one of these returning guys have a breakout year. We need that to be the case. Many of them have played a bunch of tennis, taken a bunch of lessons, done that offseason work we are talking about.

“I saw all three middle school teams play last year and came in optimistic about the freshman class.”   

They’ll be at least one or two newcomers on the squad as well.

Rosenbaum’s career record is 68-6 (33-3 in singles, 35-3 in doubles). After going 8-5 in singles at No. 6 as a sophomore, Bailey went 14-2 at the second and third seeds last year.

Last year the War Eagles finished tied for third in the CPC.  And while that is below the standard set in Nixon’s era as coach, they did produce the CPC doubles champions (Rosenbaum/Crenshaw), and that team advanced through the regional and won a match to finish in the top eight in the state tournament.

It is hard to call last year a failure, but Nixon says that he and assistant coach Terri Eanes always want the kids to have high goals.

“I was talking to coach Eanes the other day and we agree – it could well be kind of a rebuilding year for us,” he said. “But we also agree, if the work has been done, if we can get right to talking about team tennis and not spend our time on more basic things, then who knows, a CPC championship could be out there to be had.  With a CPC match right out of the gate and a schedule that includes nonconference matches against Grimsley and 1-A powerhouse Elkin, we’ll know pretty quickly how good our offseason was.”