In-house recruiting pushes St. Joseph’s boys tennis team to new heights
Published in The Greenville News
At the end of last season, St. Joseph’s Catholic School tennis player Mack Self came to Coach Kevin Meyer with an idea. The Knights had just finished the year with a .500 record and had lost to Christ Church 7-0 in each of their three matches.
Self’s idea was to recruit several students from the St. Joseph’s student body who had typically played only year-round competitive tennis.
Self’s determination paid off as the Knights finished the regular season with a 10-0 record, secured the No. 1 seed in the Upper State for the Class AA playoffs and beat Christ Church for the first time in school history.
Self said getting junior Brandon Hodge and sophomore Nick Loudermilk to play for the team was a no-brainer.
“Recruiting Nick and Brandon to play on the team this year seemed necessary,” Self said. “I told Coach Meyer at the end of last season that we really had a chance to be good if we could get these players to play. Maclean Armstrong and I eventually convinced them that we had a real chance to win the state title if they would play.”
The Knights will begin their quest for that state championship at 4 p.m. Monday when they host Christ Church in a second-round playoff match. St. Joseph’s received a bye in the first round.
“The fact of the matter is we haven’t been in this position,” Meyer said. “I am encouraged by the regular season we have had.”
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Hodge and Loudermilk play year-round, but they chose to play for the high school team.
“I realized we’d have a very good team for (Class AA) and that we could possibly win state,” Hodge said. “As the season went on and we were undefeated, the thought of the team completing an undefeated season also drove me.”
Loudermilk wanted to win a title with his classmates.
“I chose to play high school tennis because I wanted to get a feel for playing tennis with a team rather than just individually,” Loudermilk said. “I feel that playing as a team has allowed me to grow as both a teammate and a player.”
Meyer, in his second year as coach at St. Joseph’s, graduated from Bishop England in 1986.
“To me personally, it has been a real enjoyable experience,” Meyer said. “We were fortunate enough at Bishop England to win a state championship my junior year. Even back then, (Christ Church) was the team to beat. To me, it’s meant a lot.”
In addition to earning the No. 1 seed, the Knights have beaten Christ Church and Southside Christian twice each and later beat Class AAAAA J.L. Mann at the end of the regular season.
The wins over Christ Church are a huge accomplishment for the Knights’ program because the Cavaliers have won the Class AA or AA/A state championship a state-record 25 times. The Cavaliers have won the Upper State every year but one (2009) since 1998.
Ironically, the Knights will face those same Cavaliers in their quest for a title.
“My advice is take it one match at a time,” Meyer said. “Embrace every opportunity. You never know when you are going to have the opportunity again. I want to see them make the most of the opportunity.”
St. Joseph’s defeated Christ Church by the same 5-2 score in both matches. However, Meyer said both could have easily gone either way. He is very much looking forward to the postseason.
“I wish we didn’t have the layoff,” Meyer said. “I do trust these guys to continue to train. Like I said, most of them are year-round type players. We will be ready to go (Monday).”