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Tennis champs net praise from council

In the game of tennis, love means nothing (a score of zero), but city government officials have served up plenty of good love to the girls championship team at Mount Airy High School.

This occurred Thursday night during a meeting of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners when the squad was honored for capturing the 1-A dual team state title in November. That marked the second state championship for the Lady Bears tennis players in as many years.

“It’s been a heck of a run and I couldn’t be prouder,” Head Coach Luke Graham said during a special program held for the team at the meeting. It included the reading of a resolution of recognition from city officials in honor of the girls’ success, an introduction of the players and special remarks from council members.

“This team has represented Mount Airy High School very well — and also this community,” Commissioner Phil Thacker said.

Thursday’s recognition marked the second time in recent weeks that the council has honored a state championship team from Mount Airy High. On Dec. 15, the school’s football team was celebrated for its 1-A title victory five days earlier in Raleigh.

Character a key

Just as having a good serve or backhand can pay dividends in tennis, certain other qualities are needed to compete at a championship level, it was noted Thursday night.

“All of us have seen teams that had good players who didn’t win,” said Mayor Jon Cawley, who also has coached at Mount Airy High School. “But not the Lady Bears.”

Coach Graham was given much of the credit for their achievements by Cawley. “He has got them to perform at their best, match after match.”

That was evidenced by Mount Airy’s 5-0 win over Chatham Central in the November championship match in Burlington during which the Lady Bears did not lose a single set in individual competition.

While such a showing requires great talent, also “it takes a good leader,” Commissioner Thacker added in his compliments regarding the team.

Graham, however, was quick Thursday night to praise the players, whom he said possessed all the intangible qualities needed for a state championship in addition to their athletic skills. Just as any other sport, long days of practice and preparation produced that outcome.

“They came in and put the work in every single day,” Graham said of his players. They logged a won-loss record of 21-1 and went undefeated in Northwest 1-A Conference play this past season for the second year in a row.

The coach characterized them as the epitome of what the term student-athlete should be all about, praising their academic prowess along with that on the tennis court.

“GPA (grade point average)-wise, it’s got to be the smartest team at our school,” Graham declared during the meeting. “I’m probably the dumbest one on our team.”

He also stressed that the players possess a brand of self-discipline that has not required coaching them up in the traditional sense.

“I do not have to raise my voice with them too often.”

Other officials’ comments

“It’s pretty amazing,” Commissioner Tom Koch said as the girls gathered in the council chamber, “state champions, smart and pretty.”

Koch added, “Nobody will ever take that away from you.”

In commending the tennis squad for its “outstanding job,” Commissioner Marie Wood said its legacy will last long into the future given the nature of that sport. “Tennis is something you can take with you the rest of your life.”

“It’s only just begun for you and Coach Graham,” Commissioner Deborah Cochran told the team, saying that as an educator she is impressed by its dual achievements in class and competition — which should benefit the group as community members going forward.

“The player who serves well rarely loses,” Cochran commented, quoting an old saying about life being similar to a game of tennis.

As someone who has been involved with coaching, Commissioner Chad Hutchens says he appreciates how the Bears’ tennis team has carried itself.

“I can understand your commitment,” Hutchens said, and how that has spelled back-to-back state championships that are important for Mount Airy as a whole.

“It means a lot.”



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