2016 Boys Tennis Coach of the Year: Brown guides Skyline to record-breaking season

Josh Brown

FRONT ROYAL — First-year Skyline boys tennis coach Josh Brown wanted his team to win more matches this season than it did in 2015. Just two matches into the season Brown had to change that goal.

The Hawks had won only one match in the previous two seasons combined, but in 2016 they won a school-record seven.

“We won two right off from the start,” Brown said. “So I’m like ‘Ok, I’m going to have to increase our goal right from the beginning.”

It was a strong season from a team that didn’t have enough players to form a team at the start of pre-season conditioning in February.

Brown said he and some of the team members had to recruit some more players, and eventually were able to get 11 for the team.

He said that he knew the returning players had been working hard in the offseason, so he wanted to see them have a successful season.

The Hawks were able to win their third match pretty early in the season, but then started playing in the Northwestern District against bigger schools and suffered some losses.

“I was like, well that’s to be expected. But they never gave up,” Brown said. “I told them when the schools are larger they have a bigger pool to choose from. We had a small pool and we had to really go at it to recruit some guys. They never let that get them down. The biggest thing I told them I want them to do is to go out there and have fun. Whether they win or they lose, I want them to go out there and have fun, because tennis should be fun for them.”

Brown, The Northern Virginia Daily 2016 Boys Tennis Coach of the Year, said that as they got closer to the school record of six wins the team got more excited wanting to make history.

With the Hawks needing only one victory to tie the school record, the rain came in early May and washed out some of their matches.

Brown said they weren’t sure when they were going to get play again, and went nearly two weeks without playing a match at the end of the regular season. Finally, they were able to get a match in against Culpeper and won it, 6-3, for their sixth win.

Then in the Conference 28 tournament they played Warren County in the first round and won their record-breaking seventh match.

“To get those seven wins meant a lot, especially to the seniors, specifically Joey Park. He’s been on the team for five years. He started when he was in 8th grade,” Brown said. “He was the number one player for us throughout the season. It meant a lot to him. I think he was on the team, if I’m not mistaken, when they had those six wins before. So he was on both of those winning teams. So it meant a lot to him to pass that previous record.”

Brown said that he began playing tennis for the first time when he was a freshman in college, and he said that he’s loved it ever since.

He said that when former coach Deb Ramsey stepped down as coach last year, he had some students ask him to coach the team and he decided to give it a shot.

Brown said that his favorite moment from the season came in a 5-4 road victory against Brentsville on March 18. He said he had two players out, and his No. 8 player Christian Renner stepped into the lineup and won his No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles match.

Brown said that the match was tied at 4-4, and it came down to No. 1 doubles. Park and Michael Bellu were down 9-2 and on the verge of losing until a song was played at the Brentsville softball game that changed everything.

“The softball game was going on beside us playing music, and (Bellu’s) favorite song is ‘Eye of the Tiger.’ So Brentsville – they’re the Tigers. So they were playing the song and little did they know that they were inspiring him to greatness,” Brown said. “It was like someone set him on fire, and he was just hitting all these amazing shots. And that was inspiring his doubles partner. They were just feeding off of each other, and they came back to win that match.”

With the success the team had this year, Brown said he hopes it will continue for years to come and that they won’t have to keep recruiting every year.

Brown said he’s proud of the team’s players and what they accomplished this season.

“I think we put tennis on the map, so to speak, within the school,” Brown said.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com