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META team takes national championship

Douglas Fritz • Dec 11, 2013 at 7:25 PM

To be the best in Tennessee in any athletic event is quite an accomplishment.Conquering the entire nation is above and beyond.A local group of tennis enthusiasts recently climbed the ladder from local to state to regional and all the way to California. Once the 12 players got to Indian Springs, they went 27-3 and won six matches to claim the men’s 40-plus 4.0 tennis team national championship.“We didn’t know what it would be like,” said Dave Sapp, a member of the team. “We never had a men’s team from the area make it that far. There was a women’s team several years back that got third place.“Our intention was to try to win, but we had no idea of the competition. To win in dominating form was impressive to us.”The team was made up of members of the Mountain Empire Tennis Association. James Mullins was the captain, and he was joined by Sapp, Jim Green, Bryan Henderson, Bart Kennedy, Jim Flanagan, Jeff Kyte, Eric Peterson, Arthur Reid, Rick Rogers, John Sanders and Matt Snyder. All are from the Tri-Cities area.After winning locally, they moved to Knoxville to claim the state title. Advancing to the Southern Sectionals, they captured that event in Asheville, N.C.Surprisingly, the group had more trouble in the sectionals than the national event.“We only lost one match, and that was in the sectionals,” said Sapp. “I think we actually had a tougher time there.”There were 17 regions across the country with winners qualifying for the event in California. The local group had to pay their own expenses, but META covered the tournament entry fee.In the nationals, the META group went undefeated in pool play before winning 4-1 in the semifinals. In the title match, the META team defeated a New Jersey group, 5-0.Three players — Peterson, Sapp and Kennedy — went undefeated in the national event.“When we got to the nationals, we were peaking and everyone was playing well,” said Sapp.It was quite a feat for a group that didn’t have a decorated background in competitive tennis.“A couple of our guys played at King College, but most of us didn’t play in college, high school or anything,” said Sapp.Repeating the feat will not be an easy task. Because of the win, most of the players on the team got bumped up and would have to compete for a 4.5 national title next season.“Once you win at a certain level, they figure you can compete at the next highest level,” said Sapp. “Eight of us are 4.5 now. We really haven’t talked about whether we will try again or not.”

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