SUMTER | Some things are fun to repeat -- like winning the state’s high school tennis final.
Other things -- like having the team bus conk out twice on the 3-hour ride home from the semifinal -- are not, but can be overcome.
In a three-day span that saw a few stops amid the starts for the Chapin boys tennis team, the Eagles (22-2) reached one finish line in style by defending their Class 3A crown with a 6-0 victory over Travelers Rest (18-4) at the Palmetto Tennis Center on Saturday.
No. 1 singles player and USC signee Kyle Koch powered to a 6-0, 6-0 victory over the Devildogs’ Sam McBride. After the title was sealed with a victory at No. 2 singles, Koch’s elation included leaping a fence onto the court to hug fellow senior Alex Wallace and yelling “Back to back!”, then later engineering a surprise Gatorade ice-bucket shower of coach John Rodgers.
“I’m really proud of the way we’re playing right now,” Koch said of his teammates.
Koch earned his 71st consecutive singles win. He can match the state record of 74 at the state high school singles tournament next weekend and hit 75 at the North-South competition.
The Eagles advanced to the title game by virtue of a 6-0 win at Bluffton on Thursday night. But then for a while, things started to go a little downhill.
After a postgame dinner at Golden Coral, Rodgers couldn’t get the team bus’ engine to start. But the restaurant manager helped with a jump of the battery, and things appeared fine.
An hour’s worth of driving later on Interstate 95, the dashboard gauges went haywire for the 16-passenger bus with 90,000 miles on the odometer and Rodgers had no choice but to pull over.
“Never had that happen in 34 years of coaching,” Rodgers said.
Thus the next three hours were spent waiting for a new bus from Chapin to find them at exit 57 in Walterboro, which meant a lot of team bonding by playing wall ball in a Dairy Queen parking lot on a school night.
“It might have gotten us a little bit closer together,” Koch said of how everyone kept the setback in stride. “We spent a lot more time together. Things happen.”
The team got home to Chapin at 12:30 a.m. Those who needed it missed Friday’s first block of classes to catch up on sleep, but the toll proved small enough to not be a roadblock for Saturday morning’s 10 a.m final, either physically or mentally.
“We didn’t see it as a bad omen or anything,” Koch said of the ordeal.
Combined with last year’s state title over Camden, the Eagles are on a 43-2 run. Rodgers said it was in January that a friend passed along a saying attributed to UCLA basketball coach John Wooden:
“‘Your first championship you have to have talent. To repeat, you have to have character.’ The kids really showed lot of character,” Rodgers said. “They conducted themselves well, and that’s what we expect from them.”
And whether anyone else expected it or not, the 2011 Eagles bid happy trails to a second successful season.
Chapin 6, Travelers Rest 0
Singles: Kyle Koch (C) d. Sam McBride 6-0, 6-0; Alex Wallace (C) d. Connor Roy 7-5, 6-3; Sean Koch (C) d. Ryan Howard 7-5, 6-3; Jeffrey Koch (C) d. Dylan Simpson 6-2, 7-6 (9-7); Alex Arkin (C) d. Gordon Hartman 6-2, 6-4. Doubles: Chris Gardiner/Andrew Hill (C) d. Taylor Lostis/ Seth Howard 6-4, 6-1.