Robinson leads Falcons to strong season
WOODSTOCK — After the first week of spring practice, Luke Robinson was a little concerned.
The Central boys tennis coach had only five players try out for the team, and Robinson said he was close to going to Central athletic director Kenny Rinker to see what they should do. Robinson talked to one of his friends and former teammates Ryan Rutz, who is the Central JV boys basketball coach, and he was able to get Robinson in touch with a few athletes.
It may have saved the Falcons’ season, as Robinson, the Northern Virginia Daily’s 2015 Boys Tennis Coach of the Year, was able to convince three athletes to give tennis a try. Just a few months later, the Falcons gained a regional berth for the second straight season.
“Once I got the three basketball players, they made all the difference in the world,” Robinson said. “After that I felt like we had a pretty solid crew.”
Senior Austin Sherman and sophomores Josh Sherman and Matt Bromley had all played tennis only sparingly, but Robinson was able to help them get used to the game and help the team out.
The other five players were all returners from last year’s squad, and all five were in the starting lineup by the end of the season.
“I think it was good the mixture of the veterans like Bobby [Loveland] and Sam [Barbour] and the newcomers,” Robinson said. “They kind of took them right in from Day 1 and were hitting with them and showing them things.”
The Falcons finished the season 11-4. They won some close matches, including a 5-4 victory over Rock Ridge in the Conference 28 semifinals, with a regional berth on the line.
They also had some tough losses against quality teams. The Falcons played perennial power George Mason really close. The final match score was 7-2, but many of the matches were extremely close.
“That was a big deal to the guys because they realized afterwards that, ‘Hey coach, we didn’t get blown away,'” Robinson said. “Even after that it was a big boost because George Mason always kills us, so they realized ‘Hey, we actually can compete against a school like that.'”
It’s the second year for Robinson as Central’s coach and he said he learned a lot from his first year, which helped him in his second year.
The players said having played for him for a year made things easier for them as well.
“Last year the transition into it was a little tough, just getting used to some of the practices,” Central senior Sam Barbour said. “But this year we did a lot more drills and practice went a lot smoother.”
One of the new things that Robinson tried was having the players over for dinner after a home victory. He said his wife suggested it, and it really brought the team closer.
That closeness showed up in what Robinson said was one of his favorite moments of the season. In the Conference 28 final against John Champe, Matt Bromley was in a third set in singles and was trailing 5-1. Robinson said the whole team went over to the fence and began cheering him on, and Bromley managed to come back to even the set at 5-5, before eventually losing 7-5.
“Every point that Matt played they were yelling and screaming and it was just a cool moment to see,” Robinson said. “Just watching the team gather around him. I had told them to come over and watch it, but I didn’t push it. They just did that themselves, because they knew that Matt needed it because he was hurting in that third set. The fact that they were cheering for him was all the difference that he turned that around to bring it back to 5-all.”
The Falcons will lose three seniors, but still have a solid nucleus returning including No. 3 and 4 singles players Sam Snarr and Aaron Taff. They will also be dropping down to Group 2A next year, which means the rivalry with George Mason will be as strong as ever.
Robinson said he hopes that he will have at least 10-12 kids try out next year, and this season helps build the program.
“I think it’s finally starting now to be a program, which is what I wanted,” Robinson said. “I want to build a program. … That’s what we’re trying to do is build a program and not just be a team, but more of a dynasty. Because there is history here. Back in the ’70’s they won and back when I played and when [my brother] Jordan played, and I’d love to get it back again and keep it there.”
Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or email@example.com