Prep Tennis: Salisbury headed into busy stretch
By Ronnie Gallagher
SALISBURY — Alan Lebowitz could’ve been upset.
A senior, Lebowitz could’ve taken it for granted that the No. 1 spot on the Salisbury tennis team was his just by showing up. After all, he made the 2A state tournament in singles as a junior.
But Lebowitz was smart enough to realize freshman Michael Ogden, was coming in with pretty lofty credentials. So, he had no problem manning the No. 2 singles position.
Lebowitz’s team-oriented mindset rubbed off on the rest of the Hornets. It’s the main reason Salisbury just finished a perfect 10-0 season in the Central Carolina Conference, the third straight unbeaten league campaign for the Hornets.
“With his character, Alan knew,” Hornets coach Chris Stroupe said, referring to Ogden’s talent. “Alan was a great leader for me and his humble-ness was definitely there.”
With Ogden and Lebowitz as a formidable 1-2 punch, Salisbury heads into a busy two-week period of make-or-break tennis. It opens the dual-team tournament Tuesday against Surry Central. The Midwest Regionals are Friday and Saturday. Then, more dual team matches (if the Hornets win Tuesday), followed by state tournament.
Ogden is quite a story. He attended Summit School in Winston-Salem for his middle school years and was choosing between Salisbury and R.J. Reynolds.
He joined his brother at Salisbury and Stroupe is reaping the benefits. Stroupe said his diaper dandy has been ranked as high as 75th in the country.
“He’s an amazing player,” Stroupe said. “There was a lot of pressure on him.”
The 15-year-old has a 13-1 singles record heading into Tuesday and won the CCC championship last week.
Lebowitz is 15-1. The Big, Red Machine has teamed up with another freshman, Abraham Post, in doubles this year.
“More than anything, Alan is consistent,” Stroupe said. “He’s determined to win.”
Lebowitz and Post easily won the CCC doubles title last week, 6-0, 6-0.
Post was 14-2 at No. 3 singles and Stroupe marvels at the family tradition.
“It’s an amazing run of tennis players,” he smiled.
Junior Brock Overcash is 11-5 at No. 4. Since the midway point of the season, he has played top-notch tennis.
Especially in the CCC tournament, where he split his first two matches, forcing him to win three straight.
In his last match, Overcash was down 0-3 and Stroupe pulled him over for a chat.
“It was like a ‘Eureka’ moment,” Stroupe said. “He didn’t lose another game.”
Overcash’s 6-3, 6-0 win put him in the regionals.
“He played amazing,” Stroupe said.
Then, there are Stroupe’s two sophomores, Clint Comadoll and Christopher Derrick. Their doubles record is 14-2.
“They remind me of Seth Gentry and Alex Weant,” Stroupe chuckled, “with their height difference and style of play. They’re fun to watch.”
It’s always fun when you’re winning. And Stroupe remembers Chris Myers asking him to take over two years ago.
“Myers said, ‘This is the best time for you to come in. You’ll have a winning season. The guys will help you out as much as you’ll help them as a coach.’ ” Stroupe recalled.
Stroupe’s sports at his alma mater East Burke were baseball and swimming. It’s obvious he’s a quick learner in tennis, as he proved by knowing exactly when to give Overcash a pep talk during his last CCC tournament match.
“I see a lot more things,” Stroupe said.
And there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight to this juggernaut.
“It’s like the girls. As soon as they’re born, they get a tennis racket in their hands,” Stroupe said. “We have such a good history of tennis at Salisbury.”
A history that should continue for years to come.
“We’ve got some good eighth graders coming up,” he said.
But first things first. There’s still plenty tennis to be played this season.
“They’re good kids who show their emotion on their sleeves,” Stroupe said. “If they can keep level-headed, we’ll go far.”
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