Hendersonville Standard

Merrol Hyde tennis completes state championship three-peat

Tobias Mandeville (left) and Eric Popa (right) hoist Merrol Hyde’s third state tennis championship. By Blaine Kellar

Colten Jones was hesitant to put any labels on Merrol Hyde’s tennis program after winning its third straight state championship.

In the coach’s mind, there’s still plenty of work to be done before obtaining an elevated status. 

The Hawks won their third state tennis championship in as many years with a 4-1 win over Chattanooga School for the Arts and Sciences on Wednesday. 

“There’s still some bigger fish out there in some other classifications,” Jones said. “But within our classification we just try to take care of business and play the best we can.”

Merrol Hyde entered the week’s state championships as the reigning boys singles, doubles and team titlists.

Before dropping one against CSAS, Jones said their last lost set against a Class A opponent came in the 2021 semifinals. They swept Camden, Fairview and Chester County in the region, sectional and state rounds to reach the championship again.

Tobias Mandeville, Eric Popa, John Wilkes and Declan Cleary each recorded wins on Wednesday, with Popa clinching their third title in three sets (7-5, 0-6, 6-2). 

“I think the first one was special because we’d never done it before and that was a new feeling,” Jones said. “Last year we almost wanted it even more, because when you’ve had a taste of victory you want to repeat it. The third one, I think it’s more of an expectation.”

The Hawks are the fourth boys tennis team since 2013 to accomplish three straight state titles, joining Knoxville Webb (2013-15), Tennessee (2014-16) and McCallie (2021-23). The Blue Tornado won their fourth team championship in a row this week after beating Memphis University School 4-2. 

The effect of winning a state title wasn’t lost on Mandeville, who has been a part of all three championships on top of winning the Class A singles tournament in back-to-back years.

“Sometimes on the more local level – the district or region – it can feel repetitive. But there’s always something special about state,” Mandeville said. “It gets better every time.”

In a rematch of last year’s Class A singles championship, Tobias Mandeville defeated Ethan Porterfield 6-3, 6-1 in Tuesday’s team championship between Merrol Hyde and CSAS. By Blaine Kellar

Another tough regular-season schedule prepped Merrol Hyde’s young team, which rosters three freshmen, two juniors and a sophomore. 

The Hawks faced three state tournament semifinalists in Hendersonville, University School of Nashville and Montgomery Bell Academy before beginning postseason play. 

“We don’t get out-worked, we don’t think, by anyone, no matter the class that they’re in,” Jones said. “We build that confidence through hard practice, and we also schedule really difficult opponents.”

Jones prepped locally at White House and played tennis at Lipscomb University before taking the coaching reins at Merrol Hyde. The program’s next steps, he said, are to topple some of the Midstate’s top teams and develop next-level talent – something that’s already in the process for Mandeville. 

The junior has talked with Transylvania University, Johnson University, UT Southern and Mars Hill University about playing college tennis.

“The program gives a great stepping stone to what a college atmosphere looks like,” Mandeville said. “It’s kind of what we do: cheer on our opponents and make it like a college environment for those that want to go to the next level.”

Returning every player from this season’s team also means a championship four-peat is in the works for the Hawks. 

“This is our standard and we need to uphold the standard we’ve set for ourselves,” Jones said. “At this point it’s almost like you’re competing against yourself to maximize your talent level and execute.

“We’re just trying to be the standard for sure in our classification. Now we’re trying to set a standard maybe beyond our classification in Middle Tennessee.”

Merrol Hyde coach Colten Jones talks with Eric Popw between sets. By Blaine Kellar


Tobias Mandeville def. Ethan Porterfield 6-3, 6-1

Eric Popa def. Aray Patel 7-5, 0-6, 6-2

John Wilkes def. Aarau Patel 6-1, 7-5

Declan Cleary def. Nikkil Singh 6-2, 6-2

Owen Burk def. Harrison Gill 5-7, 6-0, 6-2