McCallie rallies to earn fourth consecutive DII-AA tennis team title

Staff photo by Robin Rudd / McCallie's Gabe Getz hits a backhand in his No. 2 singles match against Memphis University School's Justin Martin on Wednesday at the Adams Tennis Complex in Murfreesboro, Tenn. Getz won 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 to clinch a 4-1 overall victory for the Blue Tornado, who won the TSSAA Division II-AA team title match for the fourth consecutive time.

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Having just claimed the final point of the TSSAA Division II-AA team title match, Gabe Getz let out a loud "Let's go!" before being mobbed by his McCallie teammates.

Moments later, the junior was crumbling to the tennis court, finally succumbing to the cramps (in both legs) that affected him in the third and final set against Memphis University School's Justin Martin.

But at that point, the job was done. The Blue Tornado had been punched in the mouth early in the final by MUS, dropping the doubles point for the first time in "years," McCallie coach Jeff Clark said later. Clark's crew responded to the double setback by posting four singles victories to win 4-1 at the Adams Tennis Center and earn McCallie's fourth consecutive state championship.

"That was probably the best match I ever played," Getz said, sporting bright blond hair that he bleached Friday. "I had to fight for it when it started, it comes down to the line — that's way more fun, way more exciting.

"We lost the doubles point, and for us, it was just a reset. We just knew we had to focus on singles and win all of them and we'll be fine. That was all we focused on; there's always pressure, so I think it made it a lot more exciting."

Getz beat Martin 6-1, 4-6, 6-1 on the No. 2 court, and he was joined in singles wins by freshman Sean Clark (No. 3), junior Juozas Cioladis (No. 5) and senior Ricky Jing (No. 6).

"I felt like we had a chance to win every single one of the singles matches," Coach Clark said. "The No. 1 guy, he got us back after we beat him earlier this year, and he's a great player. Our guys didn't waver in their belief that they could get it done, and we also knew that in us, it was going to bring us an incredible effort. MUS is a talented team, they play an aggressive style of tennis that I think is suited to these quicker courts.

"But we expected the fight and we expected to win. We were fortunate that our fitness held out in the end, because it was hot out there."

Three Chattanooga programs played for state titles in team tennis Wednesday at the Spring Fling, but only the Blue Tornado clinched a title.

Baylor lost to Knoxville Catholic in the DII-AA girls' final for the third consecutive season, this time by a 4-1 margin and with Molly Donovan gaining the lone team point for the Lady Red Raiders at No. 6 singles. In the Class A boys' final, Arts & Sciences fell 4-1 to Merrol Hyde as Owen Burke had a win at No. 5 singles for the Patriots.

McCallie's 12th TSSAA state title in team tennis also marked its second run of four titles in a row, with this one starting in 2019 — the Spring Fling was not held in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic — and also including national recognition. The Blue Tornado previously won four consecutive championships from 2006 to 2009.

And this year's roster still has a chance to add more state championship hardware over the next two days in doubles and singles competition. Getz is paired with sophomore Henry Imorde in the doubles quarterfinals, where Sean Clark and senior Wolf Sholberg are teamed up as well. Cioladis and senior Andreas Sillaste are in the singles field.

But on Wednesday, Getz was able to revel in the team's fourth straight title.

"This is probably the most special one to me, especially me clinching it," he said. "I'm just so proud of our guys. We showed up, did what we know how to do, and we pulled through."

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