Monday’s sun had already set for the evening when Richard Davis looked across Polk County’s tennis courts and became philosophical.
“I’d rather lose like that than 5-4,” Davis said of the 7-2 loss to Brevard in a conference double-header. “You do not think I could have done this or that. We were beaten by a better team.”
A bucket of tennis balls and other various items were left that Davis could clean from Polk County’s courts, a standard practice after the game. However, one thing was different about this cleanup – it would be Davis’ last.
The veteran coach has submitted his paperwork and will retire from Polk County Schools by the end of the current school year, meaning Monday’s matches were his last at home. Polk County has an away game on Wednesday in Hendersonville to end its regular season.
The losses knocked the Wolverines (9-5, 5-4) out of second place in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference standings, with Brevard joining RS Central to receive MF7’s two automatic playoff spots. Still, the losses did nothing to dampen Davis’ enthusiasm for the performance of Polk County players this season.
“This has been a unique experience,” he said. “Starting where we did at the beginning of the year, with our youth and inexperience, knowing that if we beat Hendersonville, we’re finishing 6-4 in the conference and in third place, for me it’s great.
“Every second has been wonderful. The teams we lost two were better than us. There is nothing to be ashamed of with those defeats.”
Polk County will return five of the six players who participated in Monday’s matches, and Davis sees a bright future for whoever takes over the program.
“It’s a good group of kids and they’re all so young except Eric (Avellaneda),” Davis said. “I said to them, boys, listen, you will all be different players next season. If you do the work in the low season, you will be great.
“I’m proud of them. We had a great year. I hope we can close it with a win.”
Davis took over the Polk County boys’ tennis team in 2007 and added girls’ coaching assignments in 2012. The Wolverine boys won two conference titles, the only ones in the school’s history, while the Wolverine girls won four conference crowns in a row from 2017-21 during Davis’ tenure.
Davis coached state girls doubles champions Tana Harris and Hannah Jenne and state boys singles champion Ryan Heider.
“I really enjoyed practicing tennis here,” he said. “We’ve had some lean years where we were 0-and-something and didn’t have enough players. But we have also had some good years.
“I have to coach Tana and Hannah. We had the group of girls who won the conference championship four years in a row. Becoming the coach of state champions in doubles and a state champion in singles is like the stars in line.”
Davis has taught in North Carolina for 34 years, with 25 seasons spent training tennis. He has also coached football, basketball, track and wrestling throughout his career.
He has taught the longest in Polk County, and while he will not miss the daily commute from his home in Cleveland County, he will miss being a part of Wolverine Athletics and Polk County Schools.
“It has been fantastic. I have enjoyed being here. It has been a good race,” he said.
“When I knew I was going to a small country school, I just wanted to build a bit of a program. I would at least be able to say that we could compete. The goal was to be competitive and we had some good years. ”
Brevard 7, Polk County 2
1. Porter Schrader (B) d. Banks Barber 8-1; 2. Bradley Rising (B) d. Jack Smith 8-1; 3. Christian Prescott (B) d. Thaddeus Ruff 8-2; 4. Landon Pierron (B) d. Eric Avellaneda 8-2; 5. Victor Gomez (B) d. Gabe Alvarado 8-6; 6. Riley Ballentine (PC) d. Miles Felty 8-1.
1. Schrader-Rising (B) d. Barber-Ruff 4-0; 2. Prescott-Pierron (B) d. Smith-Avellaneda 4-1; 3. Alvarado-Ballentime (PC) D. Gomez-Felty 4-1.
Brevard 7, Polk County 2
1. Porter Schrader (B) d. Banks Barber 8-4; 2. Bradley Rising (B) d. Jack Smith 8-0; 3. Christian Prescott (B) d. Thaddeus Ruff 8-6; 4. Landon Pierron (B) d. Eric Avellaneda 8-3; 5. Victor Gomez (B) d. Gabe Alvarado 8-3; 6. Riley Ballentine (PC) d. Miles Felty 8-2.
1. Prescott-Rising (B) d. Barber-Ruff 4-0; 2. Schrader-Pierron (B) d. Smith-Avellaneda 4-0; 3. Alvarado-Ballentime (PC) d. Gomez-Felty 4-0.