Lynch-inspired Seahawks advance to 4A state final

LL Coach.

The somewhat cryptic rallying cry (Long Live Coach) was all over the standing-room-only Myrtle Beach Tennis Center for Monday’s Class 4A lower state championship match.

It was written on signs, on tennis shoes, on wristbands, and even freshly tattooed on a Myrtle Beach High player’s back. But most of all, it was in the Seahawks’ hearts.

Only eight days after the unexpected death of longtime coach Rivers Lynch, the inspired Seahawks swept Beaufort 6-0 to advance to Saturday’s state final.

“It was always his dream to lead this group to a state championship, and for him to pass away right before this makes it mean even more to us now,” said senior and Lynch’s grandson, John Ed Cahill. “He is definitely looking down on us right now with that famous smile everyone talks about.”

Indeed, Lynch had been grooming this group of Seahawks since he “retired” more than a decade ago with 11 state titles to his credit. He picked up his grandsons and their current teammates every day after school at Myrtle Beach Intermediate and escorted them to the tennis courts for practice before returning to his old job.

Only days away from watching his team go for the ultimate goal, Lynch died of natural causes at the age of 72. Despite his noticeable absence from his perch at the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center, his presence has been unmistakable during the Seahawks’ emotional playoff push.

“I was at Coach’s house having dinner with him and his whole family, then three days later I get a text from one of our assistant coaches saying he had passed away,” said senior Joshua Wallen. “I just couldn’t believe he was gone. I was in tears, and I know all my teammates felt the same way.

“It was hard. The first day back we had one day of practice before our first playoff game against Hilton Head, and that’s the team that knocked us out last year. I remember just taking the court without Coach Lynch here and it was so tough. It was devastating.”

The Seahawks found their footing through the heartache to sweep Hilton Head 6-0, but the toughest test came two days later – just hours after Lynch’s funeral – against South Aiken. Myrtle Beach battled to win four singles matches – all via third-set tiebreakers – to claim a 4-2 win.

“Before my tiebreaker, I didn’t say a word. I was dead silent,” Wallen recalled. “I hit the first ball of the tiebreaker and it was like Coach was there with me. I won 10-1, and all my teammates won their (third sets) too. I just looked up in the sky and said ‘That one’s for you, Coach!’ ”

Myrtle Beach was unstoppable in Monday’s match with Beaufort, winning four singles matches and No. 2 doubles in straight sets. It was only fitting that the clinching match was made by Lynch’s grandson and namesake, Rivers Cahill, who punctuated his No. 1 singles victory with a leaping game-winner.

“It was a great feeling to get that win and know that we are going to the state championship,” he said. “It’s been really hard, but we still feel like he is still here with us.”

In a way, he is.

“It’s definitely not easy. It will never be easy,” said John Ed Cahill. “He was the greatest mentor of my life and I will always miss him. But what he would want is for us take all the lessons he taught us and carry them forward, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Interim coach Jeremy Fingers sees the Seahawks coming together at the right time and defers any credit to his predecessor. “I don’t have anything to do with this,” he said. “This is all about the kids and the impact that Coach Lynch had on their lives. I’m just happy to be here to see it.”

It seems the same lessons Lynch imparted on his players in life continue to guide them after his death. The Seahawks will try to win one more Saturday at 10a .m. against AC Flora at the Cayce Tennis Center in Lexington in hopes of fulfilling their late coach’s mission.

“We’re playing with inspiration and it has really brought us together as a team and as a family,” Wallen said. “Our goal is to win a ring and put it on Coach’s grave. We’re still trying to get our first, but this will be his 12th.”

Like the “LLCoach” motto infers, Lynch’s legacy continues to live on his former players.

Photo by Janet Morgan/myhorrynews

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