CORBIN — Corbin’s boys tennis team entered the 2019 campaign with hopes of winning their 19th consecutive regional championship, but to do so, they had some questions that needed answered first.
Coach Curt Hart came out of retirement and put the questions to rest by preparing his team the best way he knew how, and the end result? Corbin’s 19th straight regional crown, and 23rd overall.
“Our goal for the 2019 season was to win every team match against our 13th Regional foes and gain valuable match toughness against our out of region state ranked opponents,” Hart said. “This team was 13-0 against regional opponents and 20-4 overall. Our 11 out-of-region matches really prepared this Corbin team for the regional tournament.
“Each year our regional tournament goals are to win the team title and also win the singles and doubles championships,” he added. “These are high expectations but our players accept the challenge. I do not discuss the streak during the season, but I know that the players see the regional records posted at the high school courts everyday.”
Going into the season, Hart knew his team would have its work cut out for them with Knox Central and Whitley County continuing to improve with hopes of unseating the Redhounds.
“The race for the regional team title is always exciting and pressure packed,” Hart said. “The boys have tied twice in the past nine years, and had to return the following day to play a team head-to-head playoff for the titles. It has never been easy. I remember after winning our first girls regional title in 1985, we tied for the regional team title four straight years (1986, ‘87, ‘88, ‘89) and lost all four playoffs.”
Hart admitted one of the changes he had to make coming into, and throughout the season, was to his team’s lineup.
“This season was challenging for our coaching staff because we had to make many lineup changes throughout the season,” he admitted. “After losing the top singles player in the region, Andrew Bingham (attended a tennis academy), and three-time doubles champion, Brady Keith (shoulder injury), we had to make substitutions. Playing strong competition such as schools from Lexington, Louisville, Bowling Green, and South Carolina really prepared all of our players for pressure packed matches just like they saw in our regional tournament.”
Even with the constant changes, Hart’s squad continued to impress on the hard courts.
“This team really molded well together and encouraged one another throughout the season,” Hart admitted. “Our senior leadership was especially evident in the area of nurturing and accepting the younger players as vital team members.
“For example, after we lost senior Brady Keith two weeks before the regional, senior Peyton Hamblin, two-time regional champion, teamed up with first-year player and seventh-grader, Quinn Maguet. Peyton took Quinn under his wing and their doubles chemistry was dynamic as they journeyed to the region doubles title.”
Corbin’s success in the regional tournament carried the Redhounds into the KHSAA State Boys Tennis Tournament Championships.
Even though the Round of 32 was the furthest any of his players advanced, Hart was pleased with the experience each received.
“I am proud of the way our players fought at the state tournament,” he said. “Both Camden (Harris) and Grant (Morton) received valuable tournament experience in singles. Drew (Beecham) and Will (Childers) played well in their loss to a strong Central Harden team.
“Peyton and Quinn defeated a good McCracken County team in the first round,” Hart added. “They had opportunities to take control in their second match against a seeded Meade County team, but they fell a little short. Peyton and Quinn really showed a lot of heart in the state tournament. Quinn came down with strep throat two days before the state and started medication. I really believe that if this team had been at full strength they would of made a deeper run in the state.”
Now comes the task of replacing four starters off this season’s team.
“This group of seniors have really been special since there beginning on the team as sixth-graders,” Hart said. “They have been like family me and they have kept the regional streak alive and set a high standard for the 2020 team.
“Each year the regional team title becomes more of a challenge because of the increasing talent in the 13th Region,” he added. “Last year, we lost only one starter compared to four starters from the 2019 team. Corbin tennis has always been a close-knit family of players, coaches, parents, and community supporters. God has graciously blessed me with good health and the ability to play and coach tennis and I give Him all the glory. We will continue working in the summer and winter months and start afresh on February 15.”