SUMTER - Youthful exuberance prevailed over the seasoned veterans.
Spring Valley won its first state Class 4A tennis title since 1982 with a 5-1 victory against Lexington on Saturday at the Palmetto Tennis Center. The Vikings won with a lineup that featured a seventh-grader, two eighth-graders, three freshmen, and a junior in the starting lineup.
"To have a young lineup like we do and for them to play in this type of environment the way they did was an incredible job," Spring Valley coach Derrick Hines said. "I can't say enough about their effort. All the credit has to go to them."
Lexington coach Eric Jackson was hoping the youth of Spring Valley would work to the Wildcats' (19-2) advantage.
"I knew it was going to be competitive as heck," Jackson said. "I was curious to see how Spring Valley's youth was going to come into play. I was hoping they would be a little tight, but they played excellent tennis. We fought as hard as we could and every guy left everything on the court, but it just wasn't enough."
The Vikings (19-2) won the two matches that went to third-set tiebreakers. The biggest point might have come at No. 2 doubles. Nick Nishnic and Blake McGuirt trailed 6-4 in the third set tiebreaker, but rallied to claim a 7-5, 1-6, 10-8 victory against Parker Adkins and Brian Lim.
"Number two doubles was a good swing match for us," Hines said. "It went to the tiebreaker and we ended up coming from behind in the tiebreaker to win it. I can't say enough about those two young men. Two really young kids showed a lot of heart and pulled it out for us."
Nishnic is a freshman and McGuirt is a seventh-grader. Their victory provided a rallying cry for the rest of the youngsters on the Spring Valley roster.
Brent Lett, a freshman who plays No. 1 singles, said the victory by Nishnic and McGuirt was a focal point for the team.
"The doubles point was really big," Lett said. "They pulled it out over some bigger, stronger kids. I think that was the best one of the day."
Lett won the other third-set tiebreaker with a 6-3, 5-7, 10-5 victory against Gordon Lucas. But the match was already decided after eighth-grader Connor Burke claimed a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Ross Sons in No. 2 singles a few minutes earlier.
Hines said that victory was as important as any.
"That was another really big match with an eighth-grader against a senior," Hines said. "It was a great win for Conner. As an eighth-grader, he showed great maturity to come through and play big in that kind of match."
Other winners for Spring Valley were Hampton Drake and Kenan Sakarcan. Lexington's lone win came at No. 4 singles by Logan Adkins.
The Vikings lost in the semifinals the previous two years, and Lett felt the experience gained was instrumental in Saturday's outcome.
"We came up short the last two years and maybe it was a case of nerves," Lett said. "But this time we played really smart and everyone gave a hundred percent. Everybody put in a ton of effort and this was our goal from the first day of practice."
Singles: Brent Lett (SV) d. Gordan Lucas 6-3, 5-7, 10-5; Connor Burke (SV) d. Ross Sons 6-4, 6-4; Hampton Drake (SV) d. William Lightle 6-0, 6-2; Logan Adkins (L) d. Charlie Drake 6-2, 6-3; Kenan Sakarcan (SV) d. Trey Swearingen 6-3, 7-6 (7-1). Doubles: Nick Nishnic/Blake McGuirt (SV) d. Parker Adkins/Brian Lim 7-5, 1-6, 10-8.