Competition breeds success.
Nowhere is that more evident than with the Western Albemarle boys tennis team.
The Warriors captured their third straight VHSL Class 3 state championship Saturday evening with a 5-0 victory over James Monroe at the Sun Tennis Center in Roanoke.
Two staples of the run were senior Gavin Segraves and junior Alex Ix. Over the past two years, neither player lost a singles nor doubles match en route to capturing high school tennis’ triple crown as singles, doubles and team state champions.
Segraves captured his second straight VHSL Class 3 singles title with a straight-set victory over York’s R.J. Novak on Thursday. On Friday, Ix paired with Segraves to claim his third straight state doubles championship as they rolled to a straight-set victory over Novak and Aryan Prabhudesai in the finals.
Because of those accomplishments, Segraves and Ix share this week’s Schewels Athlete of the Week honors.
“Gavin and I are both very competitive people,” Ix said. “Although we are friends off the court, we hate losing to each other on the court. This brings out the best in both of us because it means we will both give it our all, every point and not give each other anything, which makes our matches that much better.”
Seagraves and Ix are cut from the same cloth. Both have fathers that were tennis coaches, so they grew up around the sport and were introduced to it at an early age. Their competitive drive is unmatched and both refuse to be outworked on the court.
Ix’s dad, Charles, coached at Western Albemarle for several years and guided the Warriors to four state titles, including three in a row from 2007-09.
“After practices, I would hit with him and when I got good enough, I would hit with the team,” Ix said. “I played soccer up until the eighth grade, but I really loved the accountability you have to have in tennis. When you lose, you can’t blame it on anyone but yourself, but it makes winning so much better. Knowing that all your hard work led to you winning and not being carried by a team.”
Segraves’ father, Will, coached him in Duluth, Georgia and it grew from there.
“I originally started playing basketball and soccer, but I didn’t find either of those sports very interesting,” Segraves said. “My dad decided to introduce me to tennis and I quickly began to enjoy it. I felt that the main reason I have stuck with the sport for so long is that I always felt like there is something I can improve on.”
That drive is evident when both of them play.
Ix won a state doubles championship as a freshman with teammate Daniel Thomas. Segraves and his family moved to Crozet for his junior season after leading his high school team in Georgia to a pair of state titles.
Segraves and Ix quickly became hitting partners and helped raise each other’s games. Segraves won the Class 3 state singles in his first season at Western Albemarle. He then teamed with Ix to win the doubles title as well as the team championship.
This spring, the Warriors duplicated the feat by sweeping the VHSL Class 3 state singles, doubles and team titles.
“Coming into this season, we knew we had a really good team,” Ix said. “We also knew that wining the state titles would take a lot of work. We made sure to come into practice every day and work hard so we could be the best team we could. It means a lot for me to be able to represent my school in a positive way.”
Seagraves announced last month that he’s accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. He plans to major in computer science and will play tennis for the Midshipmen.
The senior said he learned a lot about himself during his final season at Western Albemarle.
“At the beginning of the regular season, I didn’t feel like I was playing very well for my standards, and I felt that I had gotten a little out of shape,” Segraves said. “I spent the rest of the season working on my game and fitness. I would get up early before school to work out and get my cardio back up. It means a lot to me to finish out the season on a high note. It gives me a lot of confidence going into college.”
Ix has verbally committed to play tennis at Virginia Tech. The junior has fond memories of Blacksburg, where he watched his dad coach the Warriors to state championships on the Hokies’ courts.
“I’ve always loved Virginia Tech since I was a kid,” Ix said. “I know a lot of people that go there, either from my school of from tennis, so it gives me a good community to be with when I go there.”
Ix is unsure of his potential major, but has a strong interest in math or biological sciences.
The duo is happy that they had a chance they had the opportunity to be a part of another historical run for the Warriors this season. The consummate team players, Seagraves and Ix both admit that their best memory from last weekend didn’t even involve them.
“The team and I played really well this past weekend,” Ix said. “I think the moment that stood out the most was when [No. 5 singles player] Damien [Heller-Chen] was able to finish the match off. As a freshman, with everyone watching, he must have felt a lot of pressure. It was exciting that he was able to fight through that and finish off the match.”
Segraves and Ix admit they will miss each other next season.
“Gavin and I have a lot in common, both on and off the court,” Ix said. “We are great friends and get along really well off the court, which makes it hard to play against him sometimes. But because we’re great friends, it makes it so we never want to lose against each other.”
“We are both very competitive and we don’t like to lose,” Segraves said. “This forced us to push each other to improve and makes us better players. We are always giving 110 percent on the court against each other. Off the court, we are always cracking jokes and having a good time.”