The Myers Park boys’ tennis team had a front row seat this past fall as the Mustang girls’ tennis squad completed a perfect 21-0 season on their way to a 4A state championship.
The Myers Park girls’ tennis team just didn’t win it all, but dominated competition in the process, winning 161 matches, while losing only 10 all season.
While they knew it would be a tough act to follow, the Mustangs boys were inspired to make a similar run this spring.
So far, the Myers Park have been up to the task, as they are a perfect 13-0 this year (including 7-0 in Southwestern 4A (SW4A) conference play), and having won 108 of their 113 individual matches this season.
Myers Park tennis coach Ed Flynn, who coaches both teams, says he’s enjoying every minute of the “competition,” between his teams, who can often be found cheering each other on at their respective matches.
“The boys definitely saw that it is was possible (state championship), when they saw the run the girls’ team made,” said Flynn, who has coached the Myers Park girls’ team for 13 years and Mustangs boys’ team for 11 years now. “They saw how the girls played in the big, pressure matches like the state semifinals’ match at home against Charlotte Catholic. That has really inspired them this season and it should inspire them to see their classmates and friends have that kind of success.”
Myers Park sophomore Mark Dillon Jr., who now plays No. 1 singles and doubles, says the girls’ team has been a big motivator.
“Knowing the Myers Park girls won a (state) championship is also a challenge for our (boys) team now,” Dillon said. “They won states, now we want to do the same thing. …
“Last year, we also lost to the eventual state champion (Page) in the state quarterfinals. We want to get a chance to play them again. Once the playoffs begin, we know every match is going to be tough, but we are looking forward to it.”
The Myers Park team has been perfect (13-0) so far this season with a strong balance of experience and youth, with senior co-captains, Flynn Stover (No. 2 singles/No. 2 doubles) and Chris Williams (No. 3 singles/No. 2 doubles with Stover) leading the way.
However, sophomores in Dillon (No. 1 singles/doubles), Sam Dean (No. 4 singles/No. 1 doubles), Charlie Reiney (No. 5 singles/No. 3 doubles) and junior, Charlie Fox (No. 6 singles/No. 3 doubles) have also played significant roles on the team.
Coach Flynn says even the players not in the regular starting lineup, such as sophomore Justin Williams and freshman Adam Solis have all contributed to the success of this year’s team.
Junior Walker Browne, sophomores Kemper Coffelt and Peter Deering and freshman Ben Richards round out a team that pushes each other every day, one through 12.
“Having two senior leaders like Flynn (Stover) and Chris (Williams) makes a huge difference because they have been there done that, and have seen their season end three times without doing what they want to do,” Coach Flynn said. “But it’s also great to have all the young guys pushing the older guys to keep their spots. …
“There are times when our best competition is at practice and we talk about that a lot. We have to have that match-like intensity, even in practice. We try to create drills and games within our practices to keep things as competitive as possible.”
“We have a very deep lineup one through 12 with a ridiculous amount of talent,” Stover said. “That depth keeps us focused all of the time. You have to bring your game each day, even at practice.”
While the Myers Park players drive each other, they also admit that this year’s team chemistry is another major strength.
The Mustang team is a tight-knit group that hangs out on and off the court, on the weekends, even in the summer.
“I believe our success so far this season comes down to team chemistry,” Williams said. “This team is by far the closest group, I’ve been a part of at Myers Park. We hang out together all of the time after school, on weekends and are really good friends. …
“That (bond) really means a lot in the big matches because we know we can trust each other. We know even if somebody doesn’t play well, another guy is going to pick us up.”
Flynn and his Myers Park have been on a mission from the start, as they beat rival, Ardrey Kell (who is 13-1 this season), 6-2, in the season opener, despite several close matches.
With his team up 4-2 in the Ardrey Kell match, Flynn says he challenged his team to play even better in doubles.
The Mustangs won two doubles matches to beat the Knights and haven’t looked back as they are now a perfect 35-0 in doubles’ play this season.
“I told the team right before doubles’ play in the Ardrey Kell match, that let’s see what we are made of, and we responded,” said Flynn of the season opener. “Our doubles’ play all season has been huge. If you’re going to go anywhere in the postseason, you have to be great in doubles. You are going to run into great singles’ players. But, if you can get to 3-3 and then rely on your doubles’ teams, you are going to be hard to beat.”
Flynn and company hope that formula keeps working for them into the postseason as the matches get tougher each round.
Myers Park has been tested a few times this year against traditional powers like defending 3A state champion, Marvin Ridge (7-2) and Lake Norman (8-1), but so far have responded with relatively easy wins.
While this team hopes to write its own championship story, they are all about adding to the already rich, Myers Park tennis tradition.
Many of the Myers Park players have had siblings play for the team.
Stover’s older sister, Paige, played the four years just before arrived.
Meanwhile, Chris and Justin Williams are brothers on the team now.
But, perhaps no one understands the tradition like Mark Dillon Jr.
Mark Jr., is the fifth person in his family to play for Myers Park, joining his father, Mark Sr., his uncle, Sam and his brothers, Reid and Christopher. Dillon says he’s been coming to Myers Park tennis matches for a decade now.
Mark Dillon Sr., helped lead Myers Park to two team, state championships in 1976 and 1977 and one individual, state singles’ title, before going onto play at N.C. State.
While Dillon Jr., Stover, Williams and rest of this Mustang team know just how difficult a championship run will be, they hope to add another championship chapter to the Myers Park tennis history books.
“The way we have played this season gives us a lot of confidence, but at the same time we are humble because we know it’s one thing to be the best team in Charlotte, and another to be the best team in the state,” Williams said. “But to win two championships (boys and girls) in one year would be special.”
“We want to put one more trophy on Flynn’s desk,” said Stover of the senior class. “It would be a fantastic way to finish our four years at Myers Park.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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