SOUTH KINGSTOWN—When the streak of state championships finally ended for the South Kingstown boys tennis team this spring initially there was shock.
Of course, how could there not be?
The Rebels entered the 2013 season having won 14 Division I Championships in a row only to see their run end with a late May loss to LaSalle in the semifinals.
Saturday – nearly two months after the end of the streak – former SK players from nearly the past two decades gathered at the tennis courts at Broad Middle School for the inaugural Alumni Doubles Tournament.
As SK coach Andy Carr addressed the crowd of former players and parents it became clear that the event was not a funeral for what had been one of – if not – the greatest run of titles ever by a public school, but rather a celebration of the accomplishment itself.
“I said to the guys, ‘look around, put your hand out because you’re all good people and you would have been teammates and friends with everyone here had you been in the same class,’” Carr said. “As I looked around there were so many captains and all-state players, singles and doubles champions.”
“It wasn’t really disappointing,” said Daryl Bender, who played No. 4 singles when the streak began in 1999. “To me it had gone so far beyond what I really thought it would go.
“I was just happy to have been a part of it and happy that it happened. It was so good that I don’t think you could be disappointed about it stopping.”
Competing in a round robin format, 11 teams entered the tournament as some of the best players to ever take the court for SK faced off.
Fittingly enough, it was a mix of old and new school that emerged for the final match.
Phil Johnson and Bender – two of the older players in the tournament – will take on Connor and Andrew Shumate at time still to be determined this week.
“It’s nice just to come out and see some of your friends, you know people you’ve played with over the years,” Bender said. “I still try to participate in some of the practices and it’s just fun to get out and play some tennis with some good players and enjoy the day.”
Andrew was one of SK’s top players over the past 15 years, while Connor played No. 2 singles for the 2013 team – the last group of Rebels to win the championship.
Even Carr himself took part in the tournament – playing with now assistant coach Steven Mook – and as expected his former players made sure to ratchet up their games just a little when they got the chance to play their former coach.
“They want to take the coach out, there’s no question about that,” Carr said. “That’s what’s fun about it though. It’s solid competition.”
Proceeds from the event – along with the Junior Tennis Championships, which ran along with alumni doubles tournament and featured a number of top players 10 to 16-years old – benefitted The Matty Fund, a local charity ‘helping children and families touched by epilepsy.’
“The Matty Fund, it’s our first year with them and I think we’re going to stick with them,” Carr said. “It’s always been about giving back.”