MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Awarded a No. 1 national ranking earlier this year, the McCallie tennis team could have shied away from the lofty label.
Instead, the Blue Tornado embraced it all season.
They wanted all the smoke that came from getting everybody's best fire in each and every match. And as it showed from beginning to end, the Chattanooga private school was on a level higher than anyone else it faced on the courts this spring.
It culminated with the program's third consecutive Division II-AA team state championship Wednesday at the TSSAA Spring Fling, with McCallie sweeping Memphis University School 4-0 at the Adams Tennis Center.
"We don't look at it as if people are coming after us," said McCallie senior Colin Tuttle, a member of all three of the title teams. "We look at it as if we're going after other people. That's been our mindset all year.
"We're all extremely motivated, we all just hate to lose, and I've never seen a group of guys hate to lose more than us. Practice is super competitive, and I think that's what's made us so good."
It's the program's 11th TSSAA tennis team state title overall, and the only longer run of consecutive championships for McCallie tennis was four from 2006-09. The current run includes championships from last year and 2019; the Spring Fling was not held in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Also Wednesday in DII-AA tennis, Baylor's girls were runners-up for the second straight year as they lost 4-0 to Knoxville Catholic. Ensley Collins and Sloan Proffitt gave the Lady Red Raiders their lone win in the three doubles matches as they dropped the doubles point, and Baylor lost the three singles matches that were completed. The Lady Raiders have 13 team titles, including nine in a row from 2011-19, but Catholic has won two straight and four overall, with the first two in Class A/AA.
As for McCallie extending its current run of state success, coach Jeff Clark credited Tuttle, Will Leathers - who has also been part of the past three title teams - and fellow senior Charlie Griffin for what they did for the team this year.
"When you have good leadership like that, it certainly funnels down to the younger guys," Clark said. "I'm always a believer that good teams have good seniors - if they have seniors - and we had three really great seniors this year who set the tone."
Tuttle won 6-1, 6-2 at No. 3 singles against MUS and paired with Andreas Sillaste at No. 1 doubles, while Leathers and Gabe Getz were the other two singles winners and teamed up at No. 2 doubles to help the Blue Tornado complete an undefeated season that included wins at the Chattanooga Rotary tournament and the Carter Invitational.
"Winning is fun," Clark said. "I think these guys understand that in order to win, you have to work hard. My guys never took an opponent for granted, ever, because if you do that, you're setting yourself up to get beat because all these teams can play. We knew that today would be a tough match.
"You have to earn what you get. Nobody's going to give you anything, and I'm really proud of the guys for starting and finishing well. You play tennis with a real ball and a racket against a real person, and so these guys really took that seriously."