Freshmen come up big in tennis team’s opening win

Published 11:37 am Tuesday, March 5, 2024

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By Brian Pitts

Davie Enterprise Record

When Burke Rosenbaum and Bryce Bailey graduated last June, they left clown-sized shoes for Davie’s tennis team to fill. Despite not having two guys who were good for four wins just about every time out in 2023, the War Eagles opened the 2024 season with a 5-4 road win over Reynolds on Feb. 29.

“My guys were happy to get to play someone else,” 10th-year coach Shane Nixon said the Central Piedmont Conference victory. “We’ve been grinding on each other for over two weeks now and being able to actually play was great.”

After winning the previous 11 meetings by an aggregate score of 79-11, this one didn’t come easily. Davie led 4-2 after singles, but Reynolds won two of three doubles.

Two freshmen came up big. Brady Carter won 6-2, 7-5 at No. 4 singles, and Carter/Max Rappaport clinched with a dominating 8-2 win at No. 3 doubles.

“Brady does not play like a freshman,” Nixon said. “I want to say things like ‘crafty’ and ‘wily,’ but those are often reserved for veteran players. Carter just has moxie. He plays with a confidence that, as a coach, you have to love. He stepped up with wins in both singles and doubles, which in a 5-4 match made all the difference. He is playing doubles with another freshman, Max Rappaport. They closed the deal, great win by these two.”

Davie had a 4-2 cushion after singles thanks to wins from No. 3 junior Hayden Key (6-2, 6-1), Carter, No. 5 sophomore Jackson Hepler (1-6, 6-4, 10-8) and No. 6 junior Barrett Taylor (7-5, 6-2).

“Hayden is as improved as anyone on our roster,” Nixon said. “The lefty is a gritty player. He mixes things up and is going to be a problem for a bunch of guys on the top side of the lineup.

“Barrett played a long, grueling match. He was steady and made less mistakes than his opponent. I am so proud of Barrett. He sort of gives our team motto, Rock Solid Tennis, a personality.”

Hepler’s triumph in a third-set tiebreaker was a display of true grit. He got smashed in the first set, but was able to shake it off.

“Jackson got off to a slow start, but we make a huge deal about splits,” Nixon said. “If we split sets, we expect to win. We work specifically on things for that situation. So to see Jackson lose the first set and then get the win is exactly what we want if it goes that way.”

The War Eagles, who are coming off a 9-8 season in which they finished fourth in the CPC but managed to extend their streak of winning seasons to 13, have five guys who have starting-lineup experience. No. 1 junior Zach Hill went 7-9 last year at three. No. 2 Grayson Busse went 5-3 at four and six. Key went 11-6 at three, four, five and six. Hepler went 6-6 at four, five and six. And Taylor went 3-0 at five.

“Reynolds has a new coach, some vastly improved players and make for a much tougher out now,” Nixon said. “(This win) is really good news. We lost a ton of talent last year in the three guys who graduated. I wasn’t sure how we’d respond in a first outing, especially our freshmen, but consider that question answered. They are ready. We are ready.”