Nixon ready for 10th year as War Eagle tennis coach

Published 10:51 am Tuesday, February 27, 2024

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As coach Shane Nixon enters his 10th year as the Davie boys tennis coach, he will have to answer a question he hasn’t had to answer in nine previous seasons. Nixon has been blessed with some certainty – who his top player would be even before the season started.

“We’ve had a run of really good players,” he said. “It started way back with Elijah Gregory. I knew Big E was our No. 1 seed my first three years. He was just that good.

Then Ben Fleming’s sophomore year he wins a CPC singles title from the No. 1 spot. By Ben’s senior campaign, even he knew a new face would take that spot. Burke Rosenbaum came along and held the top spot for four years. Burke joined Elijah and Ben by winning a CPC singles title his sophomore year. It has been a good feeling to just know who would sit at the top of the lineup. But not just to know, but to know three CPC champs would hold the spot down.”

Nixon’s 10th campaign is the first one in which he really doesn’t know who will be that guy at the top of the lineup.

The coach frames this interesting fact this way: “Look, high school sports are cyclical. Yes, great coaches build programs that win consistently, have good players year after year, but even in those programs, there is a cycle. Great players come and great players go. We are in the part of the cycle, this year at least, where we don’t have that dominant guy.”

But Nixon’s voice seems to have more optimism in it than the predicament might call for. He doesn’t seem to be worried about not having a guy who is the clear tip of the spear.

“This year we don’t have that lion sitting as the clear king of our jungle, so I guess we’ll have to attack more like a pack of dogs or something.”

Nixon grins before adding: “Look, this is a rebuilding year, for sure. But don’t lower the bar of expectation on my squad. We can beat some teams, we will beat teams. I actually think you might see a regional qualifier come out of this group. I’m really eager to get started with them.”

Nixon’s longtime assistant, Terri Eanes, returns to help with a team that features zero seniors. A loaded junior class of returners will be the heart of his team.

“We’ve got a class of juniors, five strong, all of whom have played plenty of top six matches,” Nixon said. “None of them has a perfect record in those top six contests, not by any stretch.  But all five have won CPC matches in our top six, and all have gotten doubles wins in conference play as well.”

Davie also has three sophomores who got playing time last year.  Add to that freshmen players coming in and there may be reason for Nixon’s positive outlook.

“North Davie went undefeated last year,” he said. “I saw them play and know there is some talent coming. I saw South and Ellis play last year as well. There are some good players in the pipeline.  There will be work to do to get ready to play at the CPC level, for sure, but it is not time to push the panic button. The cupboard is not bare.”

The CPC will prove a test for sure. West Forsyth brings back four of its top six. Mt. Tabor will be strong. East Forsyth and Reynolds took huge steps forward last year and promise to be good again. And, of course, Nixon’s nemesis, Reagan, always has a good team. Even teams who have not been as strong, like Parkland and Glenn, got much better last year. There is no reason to believe that improvement won’t continue. Additionally, Davie has nonconference matches against defending 1A state champ Elkin, a really good Forbush team and North Iredell, which finished top three in its conference last year.

All that said, Nixon maintains his optimism.

“Make no mistake, we are going to have to earn every win we get,” Nixon said. “And they may be hard to come by. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that it all starts with getting ourselves ready. We will get on the courts and work hard. We’ll decide the seeding thing on the court, put a lineup together, figure out who plays well with who in doubles, and we’ll go play anybody.  We may not swing the heaviest fist this year, but you’ll know it’s been a fight when you play Davie.

“We may not know right now who our No. 1 is, and we may be rebuilding, but underestimate us at your own peril. We will do our best to play rock-solid tennis every time out.”