School News

Coach Lawrence Eyre Retires After 25 Years

By Scott Jackson, Ottumwa Courier --FAIRFIELD — There are many tennis programs across the state that hope to have the kind of busy schedule Lawrence Eyre had this past week.

Last Friday, Eyre took three of his talented players from Fairfield Maharishi to compete in the Class 1A singles and doubles tournament in Waterloo. Sam Arsanjani, Thomas Weiss and Sam Stickles made sure that trip was a two-day stay at Byrnes Park as Arsanjani finished fifth in the singles tournament while Weiss and Stickles finished fourth in doubles play.

On Tuesday, Eyre watched Arsanjani, Weiss and Stickles join the rest of their Pioneer teammates to compete for the 1A state team tennis title in Des Moines. Playing against three of the best teams in the state, MSAE showcased their depth and battled within an eyelash of a state title before settling for fourth after two tough 5-4 losses to eventual state champ Davenport Assumption and Boone.

“So close, yet so far,” Eyre simply said after Tuesday. “It was a tough day for us. Our guys came within an eyelash of a berth in the state championship match.”

It was also a little tougher for Eyre, who was coaching MSAE at the state team tennis tournament for a state-record 15th time. It would also be the last time he would coach the Pioneers in the 1A ‘final four,’ as the patriarch of the elite Pioneer boys tennis program announced his retirement 25 years after first starting it.

“I’m retiring with a deep sense of fulfillment and with gratitude for the growth that 25 years of coaching high school tennis has brought me,” Eyre said.

Those 16 titles include seven singles champions, five doubles champs and four championships for the Pioneer team as a whole with the first of those coming just three years after Eyre started the program. The runs of dominance for the MSAE boys includes consecutive state titles in 1999-2000, three titles in four years with a championship win in 2002 and a state-tying record eight straight trips to the state team tournament that continued with the Pioneers’ run to Eyre’s final state team tournament as a head coach.

“It has been a privilege to work with Maharishi school tennis players since 1988,” Eyre said. “Their commitment to continuous improvement has produced 16 state championships.”

It was clear from the talent that competed this year for MSAE that Eyre certainly hasn’t lost his touch for getting the best out of his players. Weiss became one of just four Pioneer players ever to qualify for both the state singles and doubles tournament as well as state team tennis, joining Justin Vigmostad (2000), Owen Blake (2008) and Derek Thatcher (2011).

“He really sparkled against (Davenport Assumption’s) Luke Powers in his morning match,” Eyre said. Weiss earned a 6-1, 6-0 win in what would be his last singles win of his Pioneer career.

Other highlights from Eyre’s final day as Pioneer head coach included watching Stickels, just a freshman, beat a pair of senior opponents with state tournament experience in straight sets. Junior Raphael Gelfand’s perfect day of four wins, including two singles wins and three wins in tiebreakers, shows that Eyre is leaving the MSAE boys tennis program in good hands to the next head coach.

Eyre’s final MSAE tennis team finished with a 9-3 dual record with two losses coming to the two team state champions (Iowa City West and Davenport Assumption). In his 25-year career, Eyre guided MSAE to an overall dual record of 240-67, an overall .782 winning percentage.

For the 64-year-old Eyre, starting and building such a successful tennis program has been a labor of love for a man that grew up playing the game from the age of 11. The Moline, Ill. native, Quad Cities singles and doubles champion, Yale graduate and national hall-of-fame head coach has always enjoyed teaching tennis to what now tops 15,000 pupils over the years.

“I love sharing this game with young people,” Eyre said. “I’ve enjoyed helping them develop their skills and extend themselves while remaining so enthusiastic. That’s been so incredibly rewarding.”

Tags: , , National High School Coach of the Year , state championship , State Record ,

Website by Blue Sheep Studios