High school tennis: Slow start, but West was optimistic
West Rowan boys tennis
Coach: Joe Robinson (3rd season)
2019 record: 10-4 overall, 8-2 North Piedmont Conference (2nd place)
2019 playoffs: Lost to Mount Tabor, 1st round
2020 record: 1-3
Seniors: Kevin Sullivan, Trevor Mervine, Tanner Stamp, Steve Wilmot, Noah Arntsen, Nathan Winecoff, Austin Parker
By Mike London
MOUNT ULLA — Coach Joe Robinson welcomed back a quality nucleus from a stout 2019 team that took second place in the North Piedmont Conference behind South Iredell and competed in the 3A state playoffs.
Three seniors, all successful starters in 2019, returned. Kevin Sullivan played No. 1 for the Falcons last season and had a very good record. Trevor Mervine turned in a fine junior year at No. 4. Steve Wilmot dominated opponents at No. 6.
But the 2020 Falcons suffered a blow when Wilmot sprained an ankle prior to the opener. That prevented him from playing No. 3 singles and forced four teammates to move up. That ankle injury also broke up a highly successful Mervine/Wilmot doubles team that was virtually an automatic winner in 2019.
“Wilmot hadn’t even played a match yet, and now he might not get to play one,” West coach Joe Robinson said.
Wilmot’s absence contributed to a 1-3 start that included a 5-4 loss to South Rowan and a 5-4 win against East Rowan.
West had to sweep the three doubles matches to pull out the North Piedmont Conference victory against the Mustangs. It was 4-all when seniors Tanner Stamp and Nathan Winecoff managed a 9-7 win at No. 3 doubles to decide it.
With Wilmot down, senior Noah Arntsen was playing No. 3 for the Falcons.
“He’s been on our team for several years, but he was getting his first shot playing in matches,” Robinson said. “He didn’t win any singles matches early, but he was fighting hard. He’d helped us with a couple of big doubles wins, partnering with Sullivan.”
Winecoff and Stamp, who were playing No. 5 and No. 6 singles, also are seniors. They have limited tennis experience, but they’re good athletes.
“I recruited those two from our football team,” said Robinson, a former Mooresville High quarterback who coaches receivers for the Falcons in the fall.
Stamp was a receiver. Winecoff was a linebacker.
Winecoff and Mervine were 2-2 in the early going and had West’s best singles records. The Falcons had played two strong teams early in South Iredell and Salisbury and had been swept in those matches.
West’s No. 4 player early was freshman Abe Davis.
“He didn’t play in middle school last year, but he’s really athletic,” Robinson said. “He’s got a chance to be good.”
West’s last court action was on March 12 when it lost to the Hornets, 9-0. COVID-19 concerns shut things down shortly after that.
West didn’t get to play either of its matches against Carson, probably its biggest rival right now in the tennis world.
“Our guys can’t practice on campus now, and I can’t work with them, but there aren’t any rules against them staying active and working on their games during this break,” Robinson said. “When you’ve got as many as seniors as we do, you have to hold out some hope that we’ll play again. I hate it for them. When you’ve got seniors, you want them to have the opportunity to compete for a playoff spot.”
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