Tennis makes racket with winning season


Story by Andy Fialko, Staff Writer

After nearly a decade of losing seasons, the tennis team has finally made a return. With a 7-6 overall and 6-4 in the conference record, the team began their season on a six-match winning streak, which helped them to pull off a winning record and earn a spot in the conference tournament.

Head Coach Thomas Nguyen saw the positive effect the team’s early winning streak had on the players.

“They were more confident for the rest of the season,” Nguyen said, “They had more fun, and they knew it wasn’t going to last, but it still built their confidence. When we came up against tougher opponents, the players weren’t afraid.”

Many of the players credit much of their new found success to the growing role of Pender Murphy, a former world-class professional player who has volunteered with the team in recent years.

“He used to just help out during the season,” said junior Jimmie Cunningham, the number two ranked player on the team, “Now he has clinics all year long that East Meck players can go to. We’ve gotten better because of that.”

It isn’t just the coaching that has improved. Nguyen is proud of how hard some of the players have worked toward improving their game.

“Jimmie is a totally different player from last season,” Nguyen said, “He went all the way from number seven to number two in just a season.”

Cunningham isn’t the only high flyer on the team. Sophomore Nikhil Sadagopa, the team’s number one ranked player, added to his team’s regular season triumphs with success in the postseason. Coming third in the conference tournament, Sadagopa qualified for the regional tournament, defeating the number two seed from Lake Norman in the round of sixteen. Sadagopa went on to the quarterfinals where he lost to the number one seed from Hopewell.

Sadagopa was casual about his and the team’s progress.

“We won some and we lost some,” Sadagopa said, “It was pretty good.”

Despite tennis not being categorized as a team sport, the players worked with and against one another to improve. At the beginning of the season, the team members competed among themselves to decide which players deserved higher ranks.

“As individuals we’re really competitive,” said junior Griffin Knock, who ended the season ranked eighth, “If we win we celebrate together, but if we lose all we’re really worried about is how well we played ourselves.”

Even after a great season, Nguyen still thinks the team can do better. With many of the same players returning, the team will have a lot of talent to work with. He has a new game plan for next season and hopes that more players will come out and learn the game of tennis. Nguyen knows that with more of the hard work the players have shown throughout the season,  and a little bit of unity, next year’s team can be better than ever.

“We have a lot of potential,” Nguyen said, “Jimmie is still getting better, and Nikhil is only a sophomore. He tastes a little bit of victory and he likes that. He likes the feeling.”