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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

No stress, no drama involved in latest win

 COLUMN: RIDGELAND — There was no reason to stress or worry for the Oxford tennis team Tuesday during its match with Stone County at the Ridgeland Tennis Center.

A year after sweating things out in a tight 4-3 victory, the latest title victory, the Chargers’ sixth in a row and seventh since 2000, was a breeze.

For a team that lacks the star power of a Zach Wilder, the Chargers sure made the 2013 season look easy, or as impressive as any of the great juggernauts that have come before them.

Oxford coach Louis Nash didn’t know what to expect from his team before the year began but as the season moved along, the mix of youth and veterans meshed very well.

“For this bunch, to line up 20 times and win 20 times, it’s incredible,” Nash said. “They don’t practice great but boy they sure do play good. I tell you what they really do, they play when there’s some pressure.”

No changes

Nash had grown so confident with his team that he didn’t even change the lineup from what he played against Starkville in the 5A North Half title match. Maybe that was because the lineup last year almost got Nash or maybe, and more likely, because this team has as much or more grit than any of the five previous title teams.

“What I talked with (assistant coach) Ashley (Freeman) about the lineup it was let’s not think too much,” Nash said. “They bailed us out last year, the kids just bailed us out last year because we out-thought ourselves on the lineup. We said the heck with it, let’s go line up and play today with our best group.”

Robert Nance, a senior who has now won four state title rings, said not having all the stress to deal with had its positives.

“It was fun last year but also really stressful. I didn’t mind winning it like we did this year. Winning a state championship, that’s the best thing you can do,” Nance said. “This one is especially special because we completed the goal, we won state every year we were on the team. That’s the goal that you go for, to win the state championship, and that’s why this one is so special. We have nobody on the team that’s like a superstar but we have nobody on the team that you can say they’re weak. We have no weaknesses at all.”

Baxter Elliott, another senior, enjoyed the state title win even if he did admit to liking the drama of 2012.

“I felt like last year, we ended on such a high, that this year it didn’t have the same kind of intensity. We won a state championship so it’s not like it’s not fun but I think last year was a little bit more fun honestly with the drama,” said Elliott, who added the longer layoff wasn’t a bother. “We’ve had these extra two weeks, it’s been hot and sometimes we get a little bit lazy at practice but I think we came and played well today. It wasn’t a concern to me, it just gave us more time to be on the court and spend with our team.”

Arlis Williams has been a member of the team for six years but made his first start in a title match, which is why he thought the 2013 win was the best.

“I knew our team would be ready no matter what. We had to come out and play but just for our seniors, it might have been a little more annoying just because we were supposed to be done,” Williams said. “We did enjoy the extra time we got to spend together and I knew we would be ready so I was never worried. It was love-hate. I didn’t play last year, I just watched it all but it was really, really intense and exciting.”

How good can the Chargers be in the future? A silly question to ask considering how good the program has been. In Nance’s opinion, the future is just as bright, if not brighter, due to the talent coming up.

“They can definitely win it again because the JV now, honestly, is way better than we were in middle school,” Nance said. “If this team this year and last year can do it without Zach, the guys younger than us can definitely do it.” (May 15, 2013, Page 10)

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