Briarwood boys’ tennis sets record, wins 2nd straight state championship
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor
MOBILE – Almost a foregone conclusion, the Briarwood Christian School boys’ tennis team has repeated as state champions and brought a blue map back from Mobile for the second consecutive year.
This year marked an even more magical journey for the Lions, however, as they followed up their first state championship in school history by making more history and setting an AHSAA scoring record in the tournament.
Briarwood finished 5-1 in singles matches, which gave five individual players a championship, and a perfect 3-0 in doubles matches to post a total score of 87 points. The next closest team was Loveless Academic Magnet Program in second place with 40 points to give BCS a dominant 47-point win.
To put that in perspective, the Lions won their first state championship a season ago by just nine points when they finished with 60 points compared to St. Paul’s second-place score of 51.
“We went into the season with high expectations,” head coach Jeremy Mears said. “We wanted to reach our potential and wanted to look back and not have any regrets. I can say without a doubt we did that. Not just from a championship standpoint, but a teammate standpoint.”
Parker Bradbary, Connor Coleman, Ethan Carr, Alex Felts and Tyler Guerra all won their singles matches to not only win an individual state championship, but put Briarwood up 5-0 with doubles championships to still be played.
John Wolf ended up being the only player that didn’t win a state championship, but made it all the way to the championship match against Kaustubh Holcomb that actually had to be played the day after the tournament had ended due to his match limit being reached on Tuesday afternoon.
He did, however, go on to win a doubles state championship alongside Bradbary. It was one of three doubles state titles for the Lions as they swept the matches 3-0 to claim the title.
Coleman and Luke Wolf played together and won a doubles title, while Carr and Guerra did as well.
It was only fitting the team was able to sweep the doubles matches, as Mears places a heavy amount of focus on being a team and doing it together.
“When you have several guys that could be a legitimate No. 1 player at most schools, it’s a challenge because you can only have one No. 1 player on the team,” he said. “They have to be humble and work together along with their competitive nature and they did a good job of that this year. I’m really proud of them for that reason.”
Mears said three things made his team successful this season: They couldn’t get enough tennis, embraced their role and relationship with teammates and fought to represent their school and families well.
While the Wolf brothers have been steady highlights for Briarwood over the last two years, Mears was extremely pleased with what he saw from Bradbary and Coleman this season as they stepped up in big situations.
“Parker has as many tools in his tool belt as anybody I’ve ever seen.” Mears said. “His ball placement, the way he can change the pace of his ball and the way he moves all makes him extremely fun to watch. Seeing he and John together in doubles was incredible to watch this year. It was a thing of beauty.”
Connor, a player that could be the No. 1 player on almost every team in the state, ended up being the No. 4 before eventually moving up to No. 3 this season. The talented sophomore didn’t lose a match the entire season.
“We would throw him on the court and he would always win,” Mears said. “We kind of took it for granted because we just knew he was going to win. It was quite an accomplishment and I am really proud of how he handled where he was this year.”
Another key to the state championship was Carr as a seventh grader.
“We always wonder how a younger guy is going to fit in with these older guys,” Mears said. “He’s hit as many balls as any of these guys and handled it beautifully as did the older guys. He loves the team aspect and got so excited to compete with these guys in a team atmosphere. His talent is unbelievable and the sky is the limit for him.”
Coming into the season, Mears new his team had a great chance to repeat as state champions and even chatted a few times about sweeping the state championship with a few of the school’s basketball coaches.
While he knew it was going to be tough to accomplish something like that, he believed in his team. A knee injury kept Luke Wolf from competing in singles matches and made Mears think the sweep might be more farfetched, but the team was still unbelievably one match away from doing it.
Bradbary will be the only player not back on next year’s team, meaning a three-peat is a strong possibility and the chance at a sweep will still be there.
“We set our own standards this year and there was no let down whatsoever from last year’s state championship,” Mears said. “They handled the pressure well and had a strong mentality, which I expect to carry over to next season as well.