Tennis coach finds positives in losses against ‘superior’ opponents

Published 1:24 pm Tuesday, March 14, 2023

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By Brian Pitts

Enterprise Record

Davie’s tennis team has a three-match losing streak for the first time in eight years, but coach Shane Nixon had few complaints after three matches in five days.

His War Eagles poured everything they had into the battles against Reagan, Mt. Tabor and Grimsley. They just ran into superior opponents, with all three margins being 6-3.

“We went to play the No. 6 team in 4-A on their courts and gave them all they wanted,” Nixon said after the nonconference match at Grimsley. “I scheduled Grimsley because I want our kids to have a chance to play against good teams and teams we don’t see every day, but might run into in the postseason.”

Reagan 6, Davie 3

The War Eagles knew they might struggle for answers when they faced Reagan and Mt. Tabor in a span of three days. Burke Rosenbaum and Bryce Bailey accounted for all three wins as Davie fell at home to Reagan on March 6.

How good was Rosenbaum in singles/doubles? His aggregate score was 20-1, including 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles. Bailey rolled 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 singles, and the duo romped 8-1 at No. 1 doubles.

Rosenbaum came up with an extraordinary play in doubles.

“I happened to be standing next to Reagan’s coach, Scott Larson, and Burke ran from one side of the baseline all the way across and turned his racket in an impossible angle,” Nixon said. “Just to get to the ball was one thing. To get a racket on it, that was amazing by itself. But he got the ball back in. Coach Larson looked at me and said: ‘There are some pros who can’t make that shot.’ I’ve said before that one of Burke’s best attributes are his hands. Shots like that prove me right. He’s incredible.”

Bailey dug a 4-1 hole in the second set of his singles match. He shrugged that off and didn’t lose another game.

“Bryce never lost his swagger,” Nixon said. “Down 4-1, he looked at me and said: ‘Don’t worry, I’m going to win this set.’ He plays with such confidence, it is fun to watch. And (Rosenbaum and Bailey) put on a clinic in doubles every time out.”

Mt. Tabor 6, Davie 3

There’s a good chance the top four players in the Central Piedmont Conference were on the 1-2 courts when Davie hosted Tabor on March 8. Rosenbaum and Bailey were both 3-0 when the day began. Yes, both went down against the Spartans’ top guns, but their No. 1, who handed Rosenbaum just the fourth singles loss of his Davie career, is off-the-charts good.

“(Those four players) put on a show,” Nixon said. “The scores look lopsided, but this was really good tennis. Adam Cartwright is Tabor’s No. 1 and he hits the ball as hard as anyone playing high school tennis. Land Wyshner is Tabor’s No. 2 and his dad is the women’s coach at Wake Forest, so he has access to the best training and equipment – not to mention he is a really good player. And yet Burke and Bryce went out there and battled. Just a good day to watch tennis at a high level.”

Davie’s three victories came from a freshman, sophomore and junior. Nixon heaped praise on freshman Jackson Hepler, a 6-0, 6-1 winner at No. 4; sophomore Hayden Key, a 6-0, 6-3 winner at No. 6; and Key/junior Slade Keaton, an 8-3 winner at No. 3 doubles.

“If you had told me both Burke and Bryce would lose and yet we’d still have a chance after singles, I’d have said that was unlikely,” Nixon said. “But a freshman and a sophomore made me rethink that. Jackson, playing in only his second varsity match, was unbelievably good. Jackson hits the ball with some pace, and he plays with confidence that I really like.

“Hayden moved down the lineup after challenge matches, and I hoped that wouldn’t affect his play. He played his best tennis as a War Eagle in singles and doubles.”

Davie could get Tabor the next time around. Zach Hill (6-1, 2-6, 8-10 at No. 3) and Sean Lane (6-4, 4-6, 8-10 at No. 5) fell just short in their matches.

“Sean played the second set and the tiebreaker with a quarter-sized blister on his right (strong) hand,” Nixon said. “Zach got behind in his tiebreaker, but battled back hard. I won’t ever be happy losing a (tiebreaker), but all things considered, I can live with these.”

Grimsley 6, Davie 3

Considering how shorthanded Davie was against powerful Grimsley, Nixon felt pride when he left Greensboro on March 10.    

“We got beat by a better team,” he said. “That said, we were without Sean Lane, who had to sit out with the blister. Grayson Busse is still battling back from the stomach flu, and Slade was on a family trip. So three guys who play regularly were not completely available. Grayson played doubles but was clearly not himself. My guys gave me maximum effort. I can handle this loss. We got better today.”

Rosenbaum dug deep to pull out a 6-1, 3-6, 13-11 victory. Key survived a 7-6, 6-4 barnburner at No. 5. And Rosenbaum/Bailey ran their doubles record to 4-1 with an 8-4 decision.

“Burke played a whale of a match,” he said. “This match was incredible. To play a long, drawn-out one like that and then walk right back out there and win in doubles, Burke showed his mettle today.

“Hayden was on the court for over two hours like Burke. Hayden is really playing well. His future is bright. I was proud of Bryce. He did not play his game in singles, but he put it behind him and helped Burke get that doubles win.”

Notes: The War Eagles have lost three straight to Reagan. … They are 2-2 in the CPC. … This is their first three-match slide since 2015, when Tabor, Reynolds and Reagan beat Davie consecutively. But Nixon is not discouraged. “With two sophomores and a freshman in the lineup (at Grimsley), the future is bright,” he said.