Spain Park boys best in state

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The opportunity was almost not there, but with the help of a little peer pressure, Josh Benton and Martin Stricker were able to change Ryan&8217;s and Nathan White&8217;s minds to play tennis their senior year.

&8220;We knew we could be good this year, but we knew we could be great with them,&8221; Benton said. &8220;(Martin and I) asked them &8216;Don&8217;t you want to get that banner? Don&8217;t you want to get that picture on the wall of the first tennis team and first Spain Park boys team to win state?&8217; That was the line that got them.&8221;

Benton and Stricker&8217;s persuasion paid off Thursday at the Class 6A state tournament in Mobile. The Spain Park boys surprised Mountain Brook 57-56 to capture the school&8217;s second state title and first in a boys&8217; sport.

&8220;Everyone thought Mountain Brook was going to win it, and I think we kind of crept in from behind and surprised everyone,&8221; head coach Virginia Tucker said. &8220;We have a lot of talent, but our guys wanted this win more than anyone.&8221;

Mountain Brook&8217;s Trey Walston battled back from a first set loss on Wednesday to Nathan White in No. 1 singles to help Mountain Brook take the lead entering the final day of the tournament. However, Spain Park knew their title hopes were still alive.

&8220;We knew we had to win No. 2, 3 and 4 singles and No. 1 and 2 doubles, but luckily someone from Mountain Brook lost,&8221; Tucker said.

Mountain Brook&8217;s Carter Sparks took the No. 4 singles title 6-2, 6-2 from Strickler, but two Spartan losses on the day helped keep the Jaguars alive, as Mountain Brook&8217;s Hunter Perry failed to advance to the final to face Ryan White in No. 2 singles and Blake Buckhalter was downed in the No. 6 title match.

After the Mountain Brook losses, hope remained in doubles play for Spain Park.

The White twins battled Mountain Brook&8217;s Walston and Sprarks in the No. 1 doubles first set, edging the Spartans 7-6 (8) on a tie breaker. The Whites washed the court in the second set 6-1.

All focus remained on the second double court, as Benton and Strickler, who have played together since the seventh grade, went head-to-head with Mountain Brook&8217;s Perry and Stewart Cassady for the title, winning 6-4 and 6-3, on a double fault.

&8220;I didn&8217;t even realize that we&8217;d won it,&8221; Benton said of his final high school tennis match. &8220;It&8217;s hard to believe right now, but it will soak in when I get to see that banner in the gym and a state championship ring on my finger.&8221;

The team left the tennis complex to celebrate in Gulf Shores over the weekend