COLUMBIA -- Spring Valley did all it could do, but nothing would have been enough to stop South Aiken from capturing its third straight Class AAAA tennis title.
The Thoroughbreds handed the Vikings a 6-0 defeat Saturday at Park Lane tennis courts in Columbia to cap an almost-perfect three-year run. South Aiken finishes this season with a 19-0 record, giving the team a 59-1 mark over the past three seasons.
"It has just been a great three years," South Aiken coach Mike Hicks said. "Winning a state championship is always a great feeling. I've had the pleasure of coaching some of the best talent in the Southeast in the past three years."
The Thoroughbreds put a damper on Spring Valley's hopes of redemption from losing to South Aiken 5-0 in the 1998 Class AAAA finals. The Vikings fell to the Thoroughbreds 6-0 earlier this year, but hadn't lost since then. Spring Valley (16-2) was on a roll after smothering Summerville 6-0 in the Lower State finals, and looked to keep the momentum against South Aiken, which struggled to a 4-2 win over Dorman in the Upper State championship.
"This wasn't the same Spring Valley team that we saw earlier," Hicks added. "I thought that they would come in and show some character and they did. They caused us some problems there in the beginning, but our guys bounced back. Each championship is special, but it's even better when it's here and now."
The Vikings played well at the onset with No. 1-seed Roddy Cantey drawing an aggressive David Brill. The two aces battled grudgingly with a few disputed calls. But Cantey's determination outlasted Brill's drive as the senior turned the Viking back in straight sets, 6-2, 6-3. The Thoroughbreds' biggest obstacle came in the No. 3 matchup as Harry Cantey, Roddy's younger brother, needed a third-set tiebreaker to down Todd Hay 6-4, 5-7, (9-7).
"I feel great; I'm just so happy," said Roddy Cantey, one of three seniors who will graduate with three state championship rings. "He (Brill) was giving me trouble because he had a great serve. It was hard to return. So the whole match was kind of us seeing who could break who. I could tell he wanted it bad, but we both left it all on the court. It's just a great feeling to go out this way. I know Phillip (Chow) and Matt (Robinson) feel the same way."
Chow beat Shaun Shah 6-3, 6-4 at the No. 4 seed while Robinson handily downed Bill Blaskis 6-3, 6-0. Both seniors went undefeated this year, with Chow finishing 17-0 and Robinson 18-0. Cantey suffered only one loss on the year, taking his 18-1 record into next week's individual state finals. Cantey signed to play for Penn State in the fall.
Patrick Green covers sports in South Carolina for The Augusta Chronicle. He can be reached at (803) 648-1395.
Reach Chris Gay at (706) 868-1222 .0]firstname.lastname@example.org