Marvin Ridge senior helped program reach new heights
by Aaron Garcia
Ironically, it took a heartbreaking loss to let Marvin Ridge tennis player Joey Hatala know 2012 was going to be a special season.
Early in the year, the Mavs faced Charlotte Ardrey Kell in a non-conference match. The Mavs had never beaten the Knights, and this year was no different; Ardrey Kell downed Marvin Ridge 7-2. Even Hatala dropped his match, losing a tie-breaker to Mike Roberts.
This loss, however, was different from those of the past. Before, Hatala said, he would’ve run out of gas by the end of the match. Instead, Hatala could tell his dedication to offseason strength and conditioning work was starting to pay off.
“I was proud of my fitness, even though I lost,” Hatala, a senior, said.
As it turned out, the loss was just another example of strength-building, as Hatala, Union County Weekly’s 2012 Boys Tennis Player of the Year, wouldn’t lose another match during the regular season.
As the Mavs’ No. 1 player, Hatala helped push Marvin Ridge to a Southern Carolina 3A/4A regular-season title with an 8-1 singles record and a 7-1 doubles mark, earning league player of the year honors along the way. The Mavs’ magical season continued all the way to the Class 3A state championship, where they fell to Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons in the finals.
“It was definitely the best high school season I’ve ever had,” said Hatala. “It went above my expectations for the year. We played awesome, had some great matches. I had some of the best matches of my entire life.”
Hatala said he was pushed by his commitment to play college tennis next season at Army.
“I didn’t really mess around,” said Hatala. “And not only did that help my game, but it helped the rest of the team because we were so much more focused going into every match.”
Hatala’s personal highlight, he said, was getting past Charlotte Catholic in the state semifinals, which included a doubles win over four-time Class 3A champ Kyle Johnson. It was the Mavs’ first win over the Cougars in program history, which showed just how far Hatala and Marvin Ridge had come since the loss to Ardrey Kell.
“Beating Catholic is going to be an awesome memory,” said Hatala. “I was so, so happy to beat them. To get Marvin Ridge a check in the win column for the school in general is awesome.”