Boys Tennis: Seahawks fall but team has bright future

The Myrtle Beach High boys tennis team’s season came to an end in a hard-fought 4-3 loss at Hilton Head on Thursday, but the Seahawks have a bright future thanks to a youth movement being led by the likeliest of unlikely sources – 71-year-old Seahawks head coach Rivers Lynch.

“I tell them my age is reversed. I’m really 17,” joked the longtime Myrtle Beach coach and former athletics director. “Being around these kids has been a real blessing for me. They keep me young.”

Youth is abundant on the top-seeded Seahawks squad, which has only one senior (Blake Long). The starting lineup, which has changed throughout the season due to some freak injuries, includes eighth-graders Rivers Cahill, Bailey Morrow and Carson Duerk, freshmen WJ Vaught and Ryan Burch, sophomore William Truluck and juniors Josh Wallen, John Cahill and Dever Smith. Among them are two of Lynch’s grandsons, with more in the pipeline, and other up-and-coming players looking to return the powerhouse program to its glory days.

“We are very young, but we have some talented players and we all get along great,” said junior No. 1 singles player Josh Wallen. “We’ve all pulled together this season and helped each other get better. When we beat Porter-Gaud (last month) after they beat us at the start of the season, that really gave us some confidence. … It’s time to put some fresh paint on that (state title) sign.”

Wallen is referring to the honorary green sign at the entrance of the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center, which marks all 25 MBHS state tennis championships (16 girls, nine boys). Lynch was the head coach for 11 of those titles (eight girls, three boys), including the last one for the boys team in 2009. That was his last season as the Seahawks head coach, or at least he thought so at the time.

“I was retired,” laughs Lynch, who decided to take the job following the departure of one of his former players and popular coach, John Hairston. “When John and his wife and his son got the chance to move to (the Virgin Islands in 2016), I knew he was going to be missed by all the kids who loved playing for him. I just wanted to make sure they got someone like him, but they got me instead.”

That’s not how the Seahawks see it. “We all miss Coach John but we love (Coach Lynch) too,” Wallen said. “He has been in the program for a long time and he has had so much success. He was always here working with us even before Coach John left so it was a real smooth transition. He’s a lot of fun to play for and all the guys really look up to him.”

Lynch’s tenure as a Myrtle Beach tennis coach spans three decades and three stints, beginning as the girls coach in 1989. It appeared to end when he went out on top with the boys’ last state championship in 2009. But even during his retirement, Lynch was always involved with the program in some capacity. He used pick up his grandsons and their friends from Myrtle Beach Intermediate after school each day and walk them to the tennis center for clinics. Many of those same kids are now playing for him.

Lynch credits several of his volunteer assistant coaches who show up for practices to go head-to-head with his team.

“Duke Melton, O’Neal McCoy, Brent Whitaker …” said Lynch, listing his former players/volunteer while surveying the courts at a recent practice. “Those guys have been a huge help. Our players don’t need me lobbing balls at them. They need to play someone that will push them. They don’t let up on my guys. That’s the only way to prepare for the players we’re going to see the rest of the way.”

The Seahawks swept Colleton County and Chapin by 7-0 scores in the first two rounds of the Class 4A playoffs for their 20th win of the season before falling to Hilton Head in the Lower State semis.

In singles action #1 Joshua Wallen lost to Matt Oliver 6-0, 6-0, #2 John Cahill lost to Davis Phillips 6-4, 6-2, #3 Rivers Cahill won over Cooper Steinhour 6-2, 6-3, #4 Dever Smith lost in a 3rd set tiebreaker to Mike Oliver 6-3, 3-6, 10-4 and #5 WJ Vaught won in a third set tiebreaker 2-6, 6-2, 10-5. In doubles play, the #1 team of John Cahill and Wallen lost 6-1, 6-2 to Matt Oliver and Phillips, and the #2 team of Carson Duerk and Ryan Burch defeated Alex Ittenbach and Mario Magdan 6-1, 6-3.

On the bright side, the young Seahawks have some more great seasons ahead.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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