There have been plenty of reasons to be excited about the boy’s tennis program at Owen High School over the past couple of years. Last season the squad was undefeated in conference play on its way to a 13-3 overall record.
This season the team was perfect.
The Warhorses finished the regular season 11-0 with a 5-4 win over Polk High School at home April 19. Chuck Robinson, the team’s co-head coach with Dick Keefer, said it was a “huge” accomplishment for the program.
“It’s always hard to go undefeated in any high school sport,” Robinson said. “These boys practiced really hard, and a lot of them worked hard in the off-season. I’m really proud of each and every one of these guys.”
Owen won more than 80 percent of its 99 matches during the regular season, which started March 8 with a 9-0 victory over East Henderson High. The team was 6-0 heading into spring break. But according to Robinson, his players weren’t satisfied.
“We had guys who stayed in town for the break and guys who went out of town,” he said. “The guys who stayed got together and played, and the guys who went out of town took their rackets with them.”
Whatever the Warhorses did over spring break worked; they downed the Asheville Trailblazers 7-2 on April 9 at home before heading to Columbus the following afternoon for their toughest test of the season, against Polk.
The match, which the Warhorses won 5-4, came down to a tiebreaker between the number two doubles teams. Owen juniors Wyatt Lehman and Hunter Haynes took the set to help their team improve to 8-0.
The Warhorses would pick up their next two wins over Mountain Heritage and Avery respectively by a score of 17-1, making them 10-0 going into their final match of the season against Polk. Once again the Wolverines tested Owen.
"Both times we played them, it ended in a tiebreaker," Robinson said. "They have an amazing team, and it came down to the wire. But you couldn't ask for better tennis."
Owen picked up the 5-4 victory over the Wolverines at home after the doubles team of junior Brandon Nightingale and senior Ethan Kadau edged out a pair of Polk seniors.
The Warhorses were also at home for the Western Highlands Conference tournament, which was hosted by Owen on April 25.
"The conference tournament for tennis is unlike any other sport," Robinson said. "It determines which individuals from the 1A side and 2A side of the Western Highlands Conference go to regionals."
Owen senior Joseph Frith battled slick courts on a rainy day to earn the title of conference tournament singles champion. He advances to the regional tournament at Gardner-Webb University on May 4 and 5.
Frith was 8-8 overall in matches this season. He was 3-3 against opponents' number-one seeded players and 3-3 as a doubles partner against number-one seeded teams as well.
The Warhorses will likely host a match in the opening round of the 2A dual team championship, which is the tournament that decides the team champion.
"The bracket hasn't come out yet," Robinson said April 25. "But since we finished the season undefeated, we should have a first round match at Owen."
Owen's two coaches give credit for the team's success over the past few seasons to what Robinson calls a "very supportive tennis community" in the Swannanoa Valley.
"The Black Mountain Tennis Association has been a big help to us," Robinson said. "They have members who come out and hit with our guys, and that helps keep them competing."
Robinson also points to clinics hosted by Cheshire Racquet Club as major contributions to the Owen program.
"I tell people all the time that the Owen community is a tennis community," Robinson said. "That helps make a successful high school program."