Saturday, May 24, 2008

Firebirds fall short of title but what a season!

Southern Nash suffered its first loss in 27 boys dual-team tennis matches this spring when Charlotte Catholic zapped the Firebirds 6-0 in the N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A state championship in Burlington this morning.

The Firebirds of coach Brad Joyner have no reason to hang their heads, however. According to records available on the NCHSAA Web site, Southern Nash is just the second 3-A team east of Raleigh to reach the state final since the association initiated dual-team championships in 1991. Wake-Forest Rolesville lost to Asheville in the 1996 3-A title match.

The only team east of Raleigh to win a state title in any classification was Topsail in the 1-A ranks last year. Greene Central made it to four consecutive 2-A championships from 2002-2005 but lost to Shelby twice and Charlotte Catholic twice. Union Pines, which is south of Raleigh in the Sandhills region, won the 1-A title in 1991 and 1993.

Schools from Wake County have won 12 titles with Raleigh Broughton capturing eight 4-A championships and Millbrook one. Cardinal Gibbons — like Charlotte Catholic and Bishop McGuiness, another private school competing in the NCHSAA ranks — has won three 2-A crowns, including one today.

West of Wake, the numbers rise sharply. East Chapel Hill won its ninth crown today while Chapel Hill High won three 4-A titles in the early years of the dual-team championships.

Other strongholds besides Charlotte are Burlington, Greensboro, Hickory, Statesville, Elkin and Asheville.

Simply put, schools from western and central North Carolina dominate high school tennis in the state. When you take into consideration that Southern Nash is a rural school at which tennis still isn't deeply rooted, the Firebirds' achievement is pretty doggone awesome.

Joyner has managed to put together a juggernaut boys program in Stanhope but his latest group of seniors — Michael Barnes, Ethan Page, Nicolas Finet, Cody Brandt and Kyle Ramsey — has been his best. They've had quite a run over the past three springs.

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