Doubles team crowned tennis state champs

The crowd went quiet as junior Hayden Swope made his last serve in the court. With one final swing, senior Connor Clardy volleyed the ball over the net, crowning Har-Ber the Tennis State Champs. Cheers erupted from the side lines; the boys shouted out in exhilaration at their victory.

“I was so excited for us!” Swope said.

This win was an encouraging turn around since last year when the tennis team faced a disappointing loss after being defeated in the semi-finals.

“We were up 5-4 in both sets,” Coach Richard Horne said. “We were in control of that match. If we’d won that match we would have been in the finals.”

However this only fueled the team’s desire to improve.

“Everybody was in. We jumped in, we agreed, we all worked together, and so we were on a mission,” Horne said.

It was this competitive drive that got Swope and Clardy to the top.

“I prepared for the August and September heat throughout the summer. Tennis requires quick movement and reaction, so I did a lot of action/reaction movement drills,” Swope said.

Despite the boy’s abilities, being tennis champ wasn’t something that Clardy could have imagined when he first began.

“My mom made me take tennis lessons, and I just picked it up and loved playing it,” Clardy said.

The duo has a great dynamic as “Hayden is very intense. Very vocal, very loud he’s just there, he’s in your grill,” Horne said. “And then Connor is calm and reserved…you’ve got two levels of intensity.”

A couple hours before the game Clardy and Swope went out to the court to review tactics and warm-up.

“I don’t get nervous very often, so I just get excited to play,” said Clardy.

Swope, on the other hand said, “Before a match I am very excited to go out there and play my heart out. At state, I was extremely nervous; I couldn’t stand still. I was talking to everyone in sight to distract me from the nerves and anxious feelings.”

Swope recounts the time when they had their first loss of the season during the semi-final match.

“I was able to get through it because of Conor throughout the match…he believed in me, which was very encouraging and stress relieving,” Swope said.

His high energy paired with Clardy’s even keel has made them a powerhouse.

This solidarity amongst teammates appears to be a common thread for the whole team.

“We have a strong sense of unity,” Swope said.

Clardy also said that “We all cheer for each other when we finish our matches and have team dinners…”

Not to mention everyone’s passion for the sport, which is the reason for their hard work and dedication.

Clardy says that he loves “how fun and fast paced it is. There is no down time when playing.”

Tennis is also something that people can play young or old.

“It is a lifetime sport,” Swope said.

With Clardy graduating in spring of 2020, Swope will have to play with a new partner.

“Hayden has a little brother…they already have played together, so I’ve got a doubles team ready to go,” said Horne.

With Clardy going to college there is the question of whether he would like to pursue tennis collegently.

“I thought about it long and hard,” Clardy said. “But I just don’t see it in the future.”

With an extremely successful season, Clardy has a lot to be proud of.

Moving forward, Horne is looking to continue building on both the girls and boys side, since “a whole crew of seniors” graduated last year. He hopes that the team can rebuild and continue to dominate in future tournaments.

Winning was “one of the best feelings in my life,” Clardy said.