Iron Horses serve big court victory before shutdown
It might be the only spoil of success of the 2020 season for the Philip Simmons High School boys’ tennis team.
The Iron Horses hoped to make a statement this spring with another Class AA state championship and victories in a few other prestigious tourneys, but the coronavirus pandemic has put the season on hold.
At first, public schools in South Carolina were ordered closed until March 31 because of the virus’ threat. But on Monday, the High School League’s executive committee voted 17-0 to suspend the resumption of spring sports until April 5. The executive committee will meet again April 2 to evaluate the situation. High School League Commissioner Jerome Singleton said, for now, spring sports have not been canceled.
But, the championship in the Florence Tennis Association’s Boys High School Tournament might be the biggest hardware the Iron Horses will receive for the trophy case in 2020 depending how the pandemic plays out.
The Iron Horses, like so many previous times, blew through the 16-team tournament with a 4-0 record. The Iron Horses beat Nations Ford 5-1, Charlotte Latin 5-1 and Greensboro Day 4-2, to reach the championship against Carmel Christian. Philip Simmons posted a 6-0 victory over Carmel Christian, which is located in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“It was wonderful,” Philip Simmons coach Richard Schulz said. “It was beyond wonderful. I think it’s the biggest tennis tournament in the East. That might be a little exaggeration because most of the top teams were from North Carolina and South Carolina. The funny thing is we weren’t the No. 1 seed, Greensboro Day was. I was told they were the No. 1 seed because they won the tournament three years in a row. They were a tremendous team. But we were better.”
The team made it look easy in Florence despite traveling without two of their most talented players — Carson Baker and Coy Simon. Baker recently won the USTA’s boys’ 14 Winter Nationals doubles championship in Arizona, while Simon won the boys’ 18 national doubles crown in Orlando, Florida.
But Max Smith, Mitchell Deames, Jake Smith, Garrett Brooker, Keith Lemcke, Zade Hyatt, Will Ramey, Mike Motolla and Søren Spina were more than enough for the Iron Horses as they combined to beat their foes 20-4 in the prestigious tourney.
About a week after the big victory in Florence, Gov. Henry McMaster announced that state public schools will be closed for at least two weeks. That means all prep athletic events involving track and field, soccer, boys’ golf, baseball, softball, boys’ tennis and lacrosse in the state will be put on pause. Practices and conditioning for spring sports will not be allowed as well.
“I’ve been told I can’t coach,” Schulz said. “I can’t organize a practice or work with them. I heard three governors on TV talk about shutting down high school sports maybe for the rest of the (academic) year. I feel bad for the seniors. We were supposed to play Wando and Hilton Head Prep. But now, we aren’t. That’s a shame. But we have to be smart. We have to be safe.”