St. Pius X boys tennis coach Chuck Byrd scanned the environment that surrounds the Longwood Park tennis courts and said he felt like he was in paradise.
Combine that thought with his team's 4-1 win over the Red Elephants in the second round of the Class AAA state tournament, and it's no wonder why the coach hopes to make plenty return trips.
"Gainesville is a great team that really pushed us," Byrd said. "It really was a battle at every position, and we were fortunate to win."
Aside from the lopsided scores at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles, which only dropped four games in four combined sets, the Golden Lions needed a win at No. 3 singles in order to advance to the next round. They got that win from Langford Hills, who disposed of Jackson Goble, 6-2, 6-3.
"I think our No. 1 singles and doubles had the best matches of the year," Byrd said. "They stepped up and really set the tone."
Hills' win finished minutes after Gainesville's No. 2 doubles team of Alexander Davis and Alec Zais defeated Ryan Francis and Sean Kelly, 6-3, 6-3.
That win at No. 2 doubles was Gainesville's lone victory, but that didn't mean the Red Elephants left the court defeated.
"We leave with no regret," Gainesville coach James Barrett Lingenfelter said. "You can be disappointed, just not defeated."
Connor McMorrow exemplified that mentality during his 6-4, 6-4 loss to John DeRosa. Despite knowing his team had already been eliminated from the postseason, McMorrow battled back to within one game in the second set and had several opportunities to force a deciding third set.
DeRosa staved off that attempt, and his backhand winner in the 10th game put an exclamation point on the victory.
"Our hats are off to St. Pius," Lingenfelter said. "They are very courteous and tough players."
Despite the loss, Lingenfelter heads to the offseason optimistic about the Red Elephants' chances next season. No. 1 singles player Ryan Joiner is the lone senior on the team, and with some talent coming in from the middle school, Lingenfelter knows there will be plenty of intrasquad competition.
"I feel like we're going to be a strong team," he said, "but we're going to have to work hard in the offseason."
St. Pius will play the winner of the Dalton and Carrollton match in the third round. Gainesville's season is now complete.