Salisbury tennis winning, having fun

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 19, 2011

By Ryan Bisesi
It’s Monday at 4:10 in the afternoon, but Salisbury’s tennis players aren’t on the court challenging Thomasville in the first of three matches this week. Instead, the Hornets loosened up not in the courts where they haven’t lost yet this season, but in the adjacent parking lot, tossing around frisbees without a care, looking more like college students on the quad than high school prepsters waiting on an activity bus.
“This is how we warm up,” jokes first-year coach Chris Stroupe.
When Thomasville’s bus arrives 15 minutes late, the fun doesn’t stop, with a light-hearted pre-match huddle that Stoupe leads.
This is the happy-go-lucky demeanor the No. 3 team in the state 2A coaches poll carries, as they should. The Hornets have rolled through the Central Carolina Conference, adding another 9-0 triumph against the Bulldogs. Salisbury has won every CCC match 9-0 with each game with the fun having no end in sight.
“We have a lot of spirit and comradery,” said senior Lewis Young, who recently signed with Division III Roanoke College. “ Senior teammate Alex Weant also signed with Roanoke for basketball. “At the same time, we’re working towards winning the state. It’s a good balance of hard work and having fun.”
“You’ve got a group of group of friends that you can talk about sports with,” Steven Page said. “It’s nice to have.”
Stroupe, 26 and a 2008 graduate of Pfeiffer, is in his first year coaching tennis, where the senior-laden unit has aided him as much as he has them. He credited long-time coach Chris Myers with his tennis education. Stroupe swam and played baseball in high school with this year having been a nice introduction to tennis.
“I’ve learned a tremendous amount,” Stroupe said. “Coach Myers has helped me out tremendously just learning the game and so have the guys. I’ve done a lot of research to learn the game and learn the drills, placements and stuff.”
Salisbury moved to 15-1 on the season and 9-0 in league play with matches at home today against Ledford and at East Davidson Wednesday looming. The Hornets’ only slip-up came in March against Statesville with highlight victories coming against Ledford, Davie and Mooresville.
Despite the youthful exuberance on the court, the Hornets still have goals they’re serious about. Their principal aspiration is to have another deep playoff run, akin to last year when they entered the state semifinals before falling to eventual state champion Newton-Conover. Salisbury anticipates another potential matchup with the Red Devils, who currently only have one loss, again in the regionals.
“Our doubles have gotten better from last year,” Page said. “[Newton-Conover] has really good doubles teams so hopefully we can beat them.”
Both Young and Page, Salisbury’s No. 1 singles player, both began playing when Knox Middle started its tennis program. Page (13-3) is ranked in the top 50 players in the state in the United States Tennis Association poll and was 28-1 in 2010. Page says he will attend UNC in the fall to major in chemistry and play on the club team, a sensible choice considering Page carries a GPA over 5 and is one of the top 5 students in his class.
“They have a good club team and they play lots of ACC teams,” said Page of UNC. “You can play other people who actually want to play without the huge time commitment.”
Junior Alan Lebowitz is the Hornets’ No. 2 player with Young and seniors Seth Gentry, Sam Lewis and Josh Sheimann following. On Monday, Young teamed up with sophomore Brook Overcash in doubles play with Gentry paired with Weant. The experience has Stroupe hoping for a state title in his first year. The dual team playoffs begin Tuesday, May 3.
“With having so many seniors this year, the team is strong,” Stroupe said. “The sky is the limit for these guys.”
“They’re just such a great group of guys. They’ve worked so well together. They play well together. The comradery has been excellent.”