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High school boys tennis: Carson rebuilding, but still winning

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

CHINA GROVE — Carson tennis is heading for its second straight winning season.

It’s taken a team effort after the Cougars lost standouts Luke Sides and Hunter Smith from the 2018 team that finished second in the North Piedmont Conference. Sides, county co-player of the year, and Smith won about 75 percent of the time at No. 1, No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles. Three almost automatic wins aren’t easy to replace.

“We lost two outstanding players and we’ve only got one senior on our roster,” Carson coach Josh Trexler said. “I’m really pleased what we’ve been able to compete as well as we have in a rebuilding year.  Depth has been the key. On any given day, any of our top five could beat each other.”

Carson (6-4, 5-2) won against Statesville on Thursday and won’t finish lower than third in the NPC. The Cougars lost to first-place South Iredell and West Rowan the first time around. If they can beat West at home next Tuesday, they can split with the Falcons and tie for second place.

Like a lot of Carson’s faculty, Trexler went to East Rowan High. He was a football and track and field athlete in high school and he’s a veteran football assistant at Carson. He was the coach who led the Cougars last fall when Joe Pinyan stepped down with two games left.

Trexler went to Campbell University and is a social studies teacher. He teaches U.S. History and Human Geography classes.

Trexler was a tennis novice when he took the reins of the Cougars, but he’s learned a lot on the job during the last six seasons.

“I hadn’t played tennis since middle school, but I was fortunate that when I became Carson’s tennis coach we were playing the Cabarrus schools in the South Piedmont Conference,” Trexler said. “There were a lot of strong programs in that league and experienced coaches were willing to share their knowledge.”

Last season, Trexler coached the Cougars to a 9-6 record, their first winning season in a number of years.

Carson has a junior-heavy team. Nine of the 13 on the roster are in the junior class, including No. 1 seed Jacob Horner.

“Jacob has played tennis his whole life, and it shows,” Trexler said. “He’s our most consistent player.”

Avery Paschal is a third-year player and the Cougars’ only senior. He plays No. 2 singles.

The No. 3 seed for Carson is Ethen Fesperman, one of the county’s most well-rounded individuals. Fesperman plays soccer. He also excels in major bass fishing tournaments and masonry competitions.

“He’s involved in a lot of things, so he doesn’t pick up a racket until the season starts,” Trexler said. “But he’s good.”

A lot of Carson’s wins have come from the bottom three seeds — No. 4 seed Cameron Dunn (who plays No. 1 doubles with Horner), No. 5  seed Nathaniel Kimball, who also swims for the Cougars, and either Thomas Bost or Andrew Beaver at the No. 6 spot.

Lately, it’s been Beaver, the jayvee football kicker, but even when he’s been out of the singles mix, Bost has formed an effective No. 3 doubles tandem with Kimball.

“Bost is our drum major and for a first-year tennis player he’s been really good,” Trexler said.

It’s all added up to a surprisingly strong season for the Cougars.

“It’s been fun and we’ve had a pretty consistent year,” Trexler said. “Hopefully, all the guys on the team will play tennis for a long time. This is a life-sport. It doesn’t take 11 guys to play it — and you don’t need shoulder pads.”

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