By Lee Davis
Going into the 2015 season, the Mountain Brook boys’ tennis program had won a record 23 state championships.
But surprisingly, the most recent trophy in the Spartans’ glass case dated all the way back to 2010. The four-year dearth of titles was the Mountain Brook boys’ longest dry spell since the early 1980s.
That all changed at Montgomery’s Lagoon Park during the third week in April.
The Spartans took the Class 7A state championship with a dominating performance, totaling 75 points to overwhelm co-runner-ups Huntsville and Spain Park, which each finished with 35. Mountain Brook won four out of six singles finals and two out of three doubles matches to claim the prize.
“It was great to win because it has been so long,” said Spartan coach Susan Farlow. “We were strong all year. Our guys were determined to bring the championship back to Mountain Brook.”
The Spartans’ victory ended archrival Vestavia Hills’ four-year run of state titles from 2011-14.
Mountain Brook’s Peter Hartman defeated Spain Park’s Garrett Hartsock 6-3, 6-1 to win the No. 2 singles title. The Spartans’ Yates Jackson scored a 6-0, 6-3 triumph over McGill-Toolen’s Nathan Bartz to win the No. 3 singles crown. Mountain Brook’s David Faulkner edged Huntsville’s Jacob Bourland 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to claim the No. 4 singles championship. The Spartans’ Paul Jones took a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Ethan Forbes of Huntsville to win the No. 6 singles.
In doubles, the Mountain Brook tandem of Sam Lidikay and Jackson defeated McGill-Toolen’s Brooks Green and Hallet Green 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 to take the No. 1 crown. Hartman and Faulkner defeated Huntsville’s Bourland and William Cook 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 to win the No. 2 doubles title. Jones and Will Hargrove took a 6-0, 6-1 win over the Spain Park duo of Dalton Holladay and Jack Setterfield for the No. 3 doubles crown.
Farlow said the team’s overall depth and competitive spirit were keys to the championship.
“My No. 4 seed could beat my No. 3 seed, and my No. 3 seed could be No. 2 on any given day,” she said. “Our boys have great camaraderie, but they are always challenging each other and wanting to get better. In fact, two of them were back out on the court hitting the ball after the awards ceremony.”
Mountain Brook’s championship was historic in another way as well. It marked the school’s 50th state title in either boys’ or girls’ tennis since its inception in 1966.
“Most of the school’s state championships are from the sport of tennis,” Farlow said. “That’s a legacy we are very proud to represent.”
Lidikay, a senior and team co-captain, said bringing Mountain Brook back to the winner’s circle was a great way to end his career.
“It was sweet, without a doubt,” he said. “We had been close in previous years but had come up a little shy. It’s awesome to be part of the team that brought the championship back to Mountain Brook.”
Lidikay agreed with his coach that overall team depth was a big factor in the successful title run.
“This team was so well-balanced and deep with great athletes,” he said. “In so many ways, we were a complete, well-balanced team.”
The best moment may have come the day after Mountain Brook won the championship.
“I’ll never forget walking into the school and bringing the trophy to the front desk in the office,” Lidikay said. “It was the greatest feeling in the world.”
Lidikay’s path to the championship began when he was 3 years old, when his dad would take him to Overton Park to hit tennis balls. In the years that followed, he played other sports at the youth level before being drawn back to tennis almost by accident while attending summer camp.
“I was about 9 years old and went to Camp Laney,” Lidikay said. “At camp, I won a division tennis tournament. When I got home, we realized that tennis was my best sport and the one I love the most.”
Lidikay said he plans to attend Auburn University next fall and play club-level tennis, with a chance of trying out for the varsity.
“I’m planning on majoring in economics or maybe marketing or political science,” he said. “We’ll see what happens on the tennis front.”
Lidikay’s future may be open, but he’s leaving Mountain Brook as a state champion.
In girls’ Class 7A competition, Huntsville slipped past Mountain Brook 61-57 to win the title. Vestavia Hills was third with 50 points.
The Lady Rebels’ Hannah Nelson won the No. 2 singles title. Ellie Polk earned the No. 4 title for the Lady Spartans. In doubles play, the duo of Haley Harmon and Nelson won the No. 1 seed. Mountain Brook’s Andrea Walker and Laura Walker took the No. 3 doubles crown.