Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tennis is slam dunk for Vikings' Bill Pope

The longtime Northside boys basketball coach is finding success on another type of court.

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One of the coaches in Wednesday's Blue Ridge District girls tennis championship match owned a resume with 386 career victories.

On a different court.

Bill Pope, better known as Northside's boys basketball coach for the past 26 seasons, helped the Vikings win their third straight Blue Ridge tournament title with a 6-0 victory over Lord Botetourt at Walrond Park.

Pope replaced Sam Foster as Northside's coach in 2009 and has maintained the Vikings' relative level of success.

"I wanted it the first go-round, but I asked a little too late and they'd already asked somebody, and he did a great job with it," Pope said.

"I didn't really think about it after that. When it opened up again, I said I'd like it."

Very few varsity basketball coaches in Timesland coach spring sports teams. Pope embraced the challenge, including the overlapping seasons.

Two years ago, when Northside reached the Group AA Division 3 basketball semifinals in Richmond, the Vikings' girls tennis season opened the next Tuesday.

"I had one day of practice and a match," Pope said. "I actually had to meet the girls. I hadn't met some of them until I walked out here that day. The last two years I've been out a week late."

Northside (15-3) needed better than two hours to subdue Botetourt (8-10) for the third time this year.

Sophomore Karlie Pope, the coach's daughter, got it started with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Christina Flegas at No.1 singles.

How does that whole dad-as-coach thing work?

"It's mostly good," Karlie Pope said. "I love having him as a coach. I listen to what he says and try my best.

"We talk all the time. On the weekends, we try to practice a little bit. He beats me every time we play. It's pretty close, though."

Kelsie Hendren, Bekah Washington, Hallie Cole, Marta Jones and Andrea Elrod added singles wins for the Vikings.

Botetourt also will advance to the Region III tournament and likely will have a first-round road match.

"We definitely showed some fight today," Cavaliers coach Daniel Conn said. "I think we'll be ready next year. I think we'll be the favorite next year."

William Byrd earned the Blue Ridge's No. 3 regional berth with a 5-2 victory over Alleghany in the third-place match.

Byrd's No. 1 player, GraceAnna Chaney, hopes to challenge Karlie Pope in the district singles tournament, which begins today.

"I look forward to it every year," Chaney said. "I know it's a lot of tennis. It's exciting - especially since I get out of school."

Northside is guaranteed one of the top three seeds for the regional.

Bill Pope's foray into coaching tennis has worked out better than his initial year as a varsity basketball coach.

The Northside veteran is Timesland's third-winningest active boys coach behind Parry McCluer's Nelson Fox and Radford's Rick Cormany, but he went 0-20 in 1983-84 as the head man at Powhatan High School outside Richmond.

He left Powhatan after that season to take charge of the JV program at Salem, and he became the head coach at Northside two years later.

"My wife had gone from teaching, and she didn't get a job there," Pope said. "Then we had a baby.

"You had to pay for insurance there. We were literally going broke. It was a very hard job. I learned a lot about a lot of things."

While at Powhatan, Pope started running local basketball camps on Saturdays. Among the youngsters attending was sixth-grader James Johnson, now the new men's head coach at Virginia Tech.

"I ran a camp every Saturday. James was one of the guys," Pope said. "It was a really good sixth-grade class coming up."


Northside 6, Lord Botetourt 0


Karlie Pope (N) d. Christina Flegas, 6-0, 6-2; Kelsie Hendren (N) d. Claire Gross, 6-1, 6-1; Bekah Washington (N) d. Shannon Quinn, 6-1, 6-1; Hallie Cole (N) d. Shannon Gross, 6-3, 6-0; Marta Jones (N) d. Emily Shaffer, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5; Andrea Elrod (N) led Brooke Garland, 6-4, 3-1, susp.


Pope and Washington (N) d. Flegas and Quinn, 6-0, 6-1; Hendren and Cole (N) led C.Gross and S.Gross, 3-0, susp.

Third-place match

William Byrd 5, Alleghany 2


GraceAnna Chaney (WB) d. Emma Rothe, 6-1, 6-2; Beth Mason (A) d. Allena Willard, 6-2, 6-3; Alex Harris (WB) d. Erin Osborne, 6-1, 6-2; Jennifer White (WB) d. Hanna Kirby, 6-0, 6-0; Kayla Lambert (WB) d. Kristian Wiseman, 6-2, 7-5; Noelle Brantley (A) d. Susan Minnich, 7-5, 6-1.


Chaney and Willard (WB) d. Rothe and Mason, 6-3, 6-3.

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