Nine years after winning a Class 3A state championship, A.C. Flora’s boys tennis team was on the brink of recapturing that glory Saturday morning at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center. But the Falcons ran into a Hilton Head team that had breezed through the competition and fell 6-0 to the Seahawks to finish as state runners-up for the first time since 2006.
“We had a great season,” A.C. Flora coach Amy Martin said. “We have a tremendous amount of depth and, most of the time, that carries the matches.”
Hilton Head (19-2) dropped three individual matches in its march to its first state title since 1989. All three of those came in a 4-3 win against defending state champion Socastee in the third round. Once they got past that point, coach Jennifer Wietekamper felt her team could end the long drought between state championships.
“Socastee was our toughest match,” Wietekamper said. “It came down to the No. 2 doubles then and that is where we were going to win state or come up short. It was nice to win it in singles today.”
The Falcons have one senior in the starting lineup with three sophomores, a freshman and two eighth-graders. The run to the championship was probably a surprise to some, but not to Martin.
“I knew we could do well,” she said.
A.C. Flora (18-5) had plenty of momentum after claiming the Upper State title against region rival River Bluff on Wednesday. All five of those single matches went to tiebreakers, but Hilton Head took control early and didn’t allow the result to come down to doubles play. Sophomore Tate Steinour set the tone with a 6-1, 6-1 win against Brandon Douglass at No. 1 singles. In the other four single matches combined, the Falcons claimed seven games.
Mitchell Brockman (No. 2), Matt Oliver (No. 3), Will Danzell (No. 4) and Stevie DeVincentis (No. 5) rounded out the single victories for the Seahawks.
The failure to win any of the single points was disappointing to Martin.
“We pulled out a really, really tough match for Upper State, and that gave them some confidence but it wasn’t enough against a very good Hilton Head team,” she said.
A.C. Flora’s best chance for a win came at No. 2 doubles. Richard Kneece and Zach Kirkland forced a third-set tiebreaker before falling to Brad Malool and Ian Schenkel 6-4, 5-7, 10-6.
Hilton Head’s two losses came to Hilton Head Prep and Bishop England. Wietekamper said the team had a goal coming in of winning 6-0.
“A.C. Flora is strong with a lot of young ones coming up,” Wietekamper said. “I walked in hoping for a 6-0 win because that has been the motto of our season. The only team that we didn’t beat 6-0 was Socastee. These guys have earned it. They’ve been working very hard. We have five guys on this team that have been around since their eighth-grade year. I just came in and pulled them together.”