Where are the tennis courts?
That’s the question I had to ask myself when I started writing this fall’s boys tennis season previews for the three county high schools.
Why are all three schools playing at Fort Benjamin Park in Newport? The closest school to the facility is West Carteret at 5.4 miles. However, Croatan is still 9.1 miles away, while East Carteret is a whopping 17.3 miles removed from the courts.
Each school has courts on its own campus but not a full set. A prep tennis match requires six courts for a match, first for six matchups in the singles round and then for three doubles contests.
The time constraint that would put on the teams require them to find an outside resource, such as Fort Benjamin.
It’s not totally uncommon for high schools to have a full set of courts. For instance, Havelock, Swansboro and Topsail all have them. Now, as mean as it might seem, I could see not prioritizing tennis courts if the programs in the county weren’t up to snuff. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though.
Last season, the Croatan boys team finished 13-1 overall and 6-0 in conference play, and the girls team went 9-3 and 5-0. Both squads won conference championships. Over the last four seasons, the school’s boys program has amassed a 47-8 overall record, while the girls have gone a collective 39-20.
West Carteret’s programs have also done exceedingly well in recent years. The girls team finished 6-2 overall and 4-1 in league play last season. Over the last four years, the team has gone 34-14. On the boys side, the team went 10-5 overall and 8-2 in the conference in spring 2019. The program has gone a combined 53-13 the last four years with its last league title in 2018.
Over at East Carteret, the boys team went 7-9 overall and 2-4 in the conference last year, while the girls finished 2-6 overall and 1-3 in league play. Both programs’ last conference championships were in 2017. Over the last four years, the girls program has put up an impressive 45-18 record, while the boys have gone 28-32.
To me, that seems like performance warranting a few more courts on the campuses. Take a look at the three closest schools with full tennis courts and how their programs have fared of late. The Swansboro girls have gone a combined 37-23 and the boys 30-32. At Topsail, the girls program has put up a combined 29-16 record and the boys 26-30. Havelock has been abysmal lately, with the girls team going 9-33 over the last four years and the boys team 6-41.
Our county’s high schools have far exceeded all three schools and still have to travel long distances for matches. Add to that, practices are equally affected when only three singles matchups can take place at once. Coaches are, instead, forced to get creative to find ways to keep their rosters busy. Oftentimes as the season progresses and the top tier of players hone their skills, backups are relegated to sitting and waiting for their chance to practice on the court.
On match days, travel times can be intrusive. All sports teams must travel for road games, but few actually have to board a bus for home games. That gives student-athletes less time in the classroom and coaches more headaches in trying to coordinate three schools’ schedules. It’s a system that works for now but shouldn’t have to in light of what ought to be standard – six tennis courts on a high school campus.
When I look around at the athletic facilities at the county’s high schools, I like what I see for the most part. On the whole, each school has well-maintained venues for their particular sports. But as I look around, I have to ask, where are the tennis courts?
(Send comments or questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @zacknally)