OAKBORO — After a five-year lull during which the West Stanly boys’ tennis team combined for just 11 wins, the Colts flipped the script this year as they reeled off a school-record 16 wins — more than any other 2A or 3A school in North Carolina this season.
The undefeated Colts (16-0, 8-0 Rocky River Conference), led by first-year coach Spayne Furr, were victorious in the RRC Tournament on April 25 after sweeping the conference for the regular season title; the team will soon begin NCHSAA regionals in hopes of ultimately winning the state tournament.
“We’re happy about it, but we’re not quite finished yet. We want to win the state title because that’s never been done,” Furr told SCJ on April 21. “We’ve had a really good team with four really good seniors as well as some underclassmen who came in and are playing well. We swept everybody, so that was really cool — my guys are awesome.”
Overall, West has been dominant with a 72-17 record in individual matches.
Seniors JT Barbee and Matthew Parker and freshman Nic Smith are all undefeated in singles play, while Barbee and senior Zak Bondurant join Parker and junior Nate Barringer as the Colts’ two undefeated doubles pairs.
The Colts’ success serves as a reward for the team’s seniors who have had a different coach each year of high school.
Furr said his team has had an organic chemistry this year that is centered around a common goal of improving their playing abilities while not getting too lost in the details of technique repetition.
“A lot of people told me that I was inheriting a relatively good group,” he added. “They weren’t speaking necessarily in terms of skill level but the kids’ character, and I was excited about that. We just have fun. Now when it’s time to make sure we’re doing right, we’ll do right. But as long as the guys are having fun and playing loose, I don’t think we can be beat, honestly.”
Reflecting on his first year as a tennis coach, Furr is quick to mention his own experience as a Colts tennis player mentored by former West coach Keith Hinson, who passed away at the age of 83 in 2020.
Hinson served West as both a coach and an unofficial skills trainer for many years, leaving behind a legacy as a kind and motivational mentor for both the Colts boys’ and girls’ teams.
“He was my biggest influence in high school, as a coach now,” Furr said. “When I signed to play football in college, he was in my Signing Day picture instead of a football coach. He was really important to me as I developed into a young man and athlete, and he’s still important to me to this day. I take a lot of my coaching style after him.”
Furr is currently petitioning to have the unnamed tennis courts on West’s campus named after Hinson, and he also plans to start the annual tradition of giving a Colts player the “Keith Hinson Award” to honor high character and work ethic.
But as for now, the Colts are aiming to continue their winning streak and take their unexpectedly perfect season as far as they can.