Fond farewell: Davis pleased with final season as Polk County tennis coach

Monday’s sun had already set for the evening as Richard Davis looked across Polk County’s tennis courts and waxed philosophical.

“I’d rather lose like that than 5-4,” Davis said of 7-2 losses to Brevard in a conference doubleheader. “You don’t think I could have done this or that. We were beaten by a better team.”

A bucket of tennis balls and other assorted items remained for Davis to clean from Polk County’s courts, a standard post-match practice. One thing differed about this cleanup, though – it would be Davis’ last.

The veteran head coach has submitted his paperwork and will retire from Polk County Schools at the end of the current school year, meaning Monday’s matches were his last at home. Polk County has an away match on Wednesday at Hendersonville to close its regular season.

The losses knocked the Wolverines (9-5, 5-4) out of second place in the Mountain Foothills 7 Conference standings, with Brevard joining R-S Central to receive the MF7’s two automatic playoff berths. Yet the losses did nothing to damper Davis’ enthusiasm about the performance of Polk County’s players this season.

“This has been an exceptional experience,” he said. “To start where we did at the beginning of the year, with our youth and inexperience, to know that if we beat Hendersonville we finish 6-4 in the conference and in third place, to me that is amazing.

“Every second has been wonderful. The teams we lost two were better than us. There’s nothing to be ashamed of with those defeats.”

Polk County will return five of the six players who took part in Monday’s matches, and Davis sees a bright future for whomever takes over the program.

“It’s a good group of kids, and they’re all so young except for Eric (Avellaneda),” Davis said. “I told them, guys, listen, all of you will be different players next season. If you’ll put in the work in the offseason, you’ll be amazing.

“I’m proud of them. We had a great year. I hope we can close it with a win.”

Davis took over Polk County’s boys tennis team in 2007, adding girls coaching duties in 2012. The Wolverine boys won two conference titles, the only ones in school history, while the Wolverine girls won four straight conference crowns from 2017-21 during Davis’ tenure.

Davis coached state girls doubles champions Tana Harris and Hannah Jenne and state boys singles champion Ryan Heider.

“I’ve throughly enjoyed coaching tennis here,” he said. “We’ve had some lean years where we were 0-and-something and didn’t have enough players. But we’ve had some great years as well.

“I got to coach Tana and Hannah. We had the group of girls who won the conference championship four years in a row. Getting to coach state doubles champions and a state singles champ, that’s like the stars aligning.”

Davis has taught in North Carolina for 34 years, with 25 seasons spent coaching tennis. He’s also coached football, basketball, track and wrestling during his career.

He’s taught the longest in Polk County, and while he won’t miss the daily commute from his home in Cleveland County, he will miss being part of Wolverine athletics and Polk County Schools.

“It’s been great. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being here. It’s been a good run,” he said.

“When I knew I was going to a small, rural school, I just wanted to build a little bit of a program. I wanted to at least be able to say we could compete. The goal was to be competitive, and we had some good years.”

Brevard 7, Polk County 2

1. Porter Schrader (B) d. Banks Barber 8-1; 2. Bradley Rising (B) d. Jack Smith 8-1; 3. Christian Prescott (B) d. Thaddeus Ruff 8-2; 4. Landon Pierron (B) d. Eric Avellaneda 8-2; 5. Victor Gomez (B) d. Gabe Alvarado 8-6; 6. Riley Ballentine (PC) d. Miles Felty 8-1.

1. Schrader-Rising (B) d. Barber-Ruff 4-0; 2. Prescott-Pierron (B) d. Smith-Avellaneda 4-1; 3. Alvarado-Ballentime (PC) d. Gomez-Felty 4-1.

Brevard 7, Polk County 2

1. Porter Schrader (B) d. Banks Barber 8-4; 2. Bradley Rising (B) d. Jack Smith 8-0; 3. Christian Prescott (B) d. Thaddeus Ruff 8-6; 4. Landon Pierron (B) d. Eric Avellaneda 8-3; 5. Victor Gomez (B) d. Gabe Alvarado 8-3; 6. Riley Ballentine (PC) d. Miles Felty 8-2.

1. Prescott-Rising (B) d. Barber-Ruff 4-0; 2. Schrader-Pierron (B) d. Smith-Avellaneda 4-0; 3. Alvarado-Ballentime (PC) d. Gomez-Felty 4-0.