Long drought over: Camden boys tennis team wins Class 3A state championship
Camden boys tennis snapped its championship drought with a dominating performance on Saturday.
The Bulldogs defeated Daniel, 5-1, to win the Class 3A championship at the Florence Tennis Center.
It is Camden’s second state championship in program history with the other coming in 1992. The Bulldogs were making their first championship appearance since 2010.
Camden’s three previous championship appearances came under Hall of Fame coach Roger Smoak, who won more than 500 matches and is second in the state in wins.
Smoak was in attendance at Saturday’s championship match.
“He is a mentor to our boys and to us,” Camden coach Abby Baytes said. “We love having him around.”
The title is the second for the school this season as Camden’s girls basketball team defeated Wren in March.
It also comes in Baytes’ first year as head coach. She replaced Pamela Smoak, Roger’s daughter, as head coach, and took the job in February right before the season started.
“Piece of cake right?” Baytes joked about winning a title in her first season. “We always knew we could do it but to be here and be reality, it is surreal.”
Baytes inherited a strong team that made it to the Lower State championship before last season but lost to Oceanside.
The team had one senior in the team’s starting rotation, Alex Hinton and two strong players at the top in David Pope and Slade Funderburk. Hank Greenway, Hinton and Wilson Nash, a linebacker on the football team, the team’s No. 3-5 players, stepped up big and didn’t drop a match in the playoffs.
The Bulldogs defeated Beaufort, Waccamaw and Philip Simmons in the postseason to make it to the championship. Camden finished at 13-2 with only losses to Class 5A schools River Bluff and Spartanburg.
“It is kind of unreal if you sit here and think about it,” Hinton said. “We all played well as a team and have been playing well all year. And we got it done. That is all that matters.”
Hinton said he was unsure how to act as he was getting ready to storm the court to celebrate with his teammates. Funderburk clinched the title with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Then, Pope won his match 6-3, 6-4 to end it as the celebration spilled onto the court and ended with Hinton picking Pope up and Baytes getting doused with water.
“It is something we have been waiting for since we were little,” Hiinton said. “It is everyone’s dream and a dream-come-true-type thing.”
Daniel was making its second straight championship appearance. The Lions lost in the championship to Oceanside Collegiate, which won the 2A title Saturday.
Daniel coach Zaina Nait Omar thought her players might have played a little tight in the championship match.
“I told them we played too tight and that the other team played as if they wanted to win,” Nait Omar said. “They got to learn the lesson from that and they got to learn next when they want to win something, they have to go out and take it.”
Singles: David Pope (C) def. Allen Hong, 6-3, 6-4; Slade Funderburk (C) def. Andrew Mogge, 6-3, 6-2; Hank Greenway (C) def. Brian Truong, 6-2, 6-2; Alex Hinton (C) def. Ian Burton, 6-1, 6-0; Wilson Nash (C) def. Brooks Dunn, 6-2, 6-4. Doubles: Nolan Garrett/Aidan Rollins (D) def. Brett Elliott/James Burns, 6-3, 6-2.