When Tanner and Chandler Brice approached Rocky Mount High coach Barry Nethercutt this summer and asked to play doubles together, Nethercutt said he would at least give them a chance.
Tanner, a senior, wanted to play with Chandler, a sophomore, simply because it was her final year of high school.
When Nethercutt paired the two sisters, permanence was far from his mind.
But the Brices played so well that they’ve become the Gryphons’ No. 1 doubles staple, a pairing that can play with just about any other doubles team in 3-A.
Nethercutt’s wait-and-see approach turned into a lock within a week or so.
“I really thought I was going to try it with Tanner and Chandler in the beginning, then mix it up for the first few matches and see if they were the best team,” Nethercutt said. “After two matches, they worked so well together that it was obvious I wanted them to stay together.”
The Brices had played doubles together in a few tournaments but nothing extensive, yet the pairing is 5-2 so far, and Nethercutt said they are “a few points away from being undefeated.”
The No. 1 doubles team has worked because the two compliment each other so well.
“Tanner’s really calm. More calm than I am,” Chandler Brice said. “I’d definitely say I’m more competitive, so she helps me calm down when I need it and I help her get competitive when she needs to be. Our personalities fit really well together.”
Of course, disagreements happen – how could they not when the two spend so much time together? – but the sisters have allowed the Gryphons to be consistently good in doubles.
Chandler’s aggressiveness matches well with Tanner’s consistency on the baseline.
“Chandler’s really good at the net, so whenever I’m serving or playing the baseline and she’s at the net, we’re at our best,” Tanner Brice said.
Nethercutt wants his doubles teams to be wildly aggressive, constantly charging the net and forcing the other teams into mistakes. Tanner has grown into the system, Nethercutt said, while Chandler was a natural for it.
The fact that Chandler plays No. 1 singles even though Tanner is older doesn’t bother Tanner, but it would if the roles were reversed.
“I think our personalities, if they had been switched, she wouldn’t have liked it,” Tanner said before Chandler interrupted with, “I would have hated it.”
The pairing is shooting for regionals individually, but the Gryphons might have similarly high potential with a newfound doubles system that is working well.
Rocky Mount is ranked No. 7 in the state in the latest 3-A poll, and Nethercutt said the Brices playing together has allowed the Gryphons’ No. 2 doubles pairing of Eliza Fike and Mary Blair Thompson to flourish, too.
“I think it’s made Mary Blair and Eliza a really good No. 2 team,” he said. “When we go into any match, we feel we should win No. 1 or No. 2 doubles.”
The Gryphons will lean on the two sisters as they progress this promising season.
And the right fit was something as simple as trying to enjoy the year.
“I think it was just mostly based on the fact that I was a senior and we’ve always played tennis together, so it was just a good opportunity to finish off my tennis season,” Tanner said. “... We’ve pretty much always been each other’s best friends.”
Nick Piotrowicz can be reached at 407-9952 or firstname.lastname@example.org