For each of the past four seasons, Charlotte Catholic has had one of N.C.’s best-ever boys tennis players in four-time individual Class 3A state champion Kyle Johnson.
But Johnson recently finished his freshman season at DePaul University (Ill.) and Cougars’ opponents probably had 2013 circled on their calendar, hoping to exact some revenge for the 47-18 record Catholic accumulated during Johnson’s dominant career.
However, those opponents didn’t count on the emergence of Cougars’ sophomore Riley Brosnan.
Brosnan spent each of the past two seasons honing his game at Maryland’s U.S. Tennis Academy’s Training Center at College Park. He knew the Cougars had an esteemed tradition, but didn’t realize at first just how successful Johnson and his Catholic teammates had been.
“I didn’t know much about it,” Brosnan said. “I’d heard good things but I think it was a good year for me to arrive because Kyle had just left and he was absolutely amazing.
“I had really big shoes to fill, and I’m glad that I was able to hold up to that a little bit.”
What Brosnan did in his sophomore season – going 6-0 in conference play, 14-3 in dual-team matches and 23-4 in overall singles matches – was an impressive beginning to what had to leave Cougars’ opponents miffed.
“It was cool because no one really knew who I was,” Brosnan said. “Some people thought I might have been (Johnson) and would say ‘Are you still that same kid?’
“I would just say ‘Oh no, I’m somebody different.’”
Brosnan is a different player, but he produced nearly the same results. In addition to his individual accomplishments, he led the Cougars to a 14-3 record, their best since 2007.
Along the way, Brosnan was named to the all-ME-GA 7 3A/4A conference team and was honored with all-region and all-state selections after winning the Class 3A Midwestern Regional championship and advancing to the individual final of the state championship.
And, like Johnson before him, Brosnan is this season’s Carolina Weekly Newspaper Group’s Southern Mecklenburg Boys Tennis Player of the Year.
“I started the year off slowly and wasn’t playing my best,” Brosnan said. “But as the season progressed – and I don’t think it was that I was really playing better – but I felt like my team was depending on me more and I wanted to pick up my level of play for them.
“That was the best part of the season for me. I loved playing on a team and playing for a coach. That’s what made it fun for me.”
And there’s plenty of reasons to believe the fun can continue as the Cougars had five players qualify for the state tournament this year for the first time, many of whom return next season.
Behind their newest star, at least if Brosnan has his way, the Cougars are setting themselves up for another dominant run.
“I think there will be more pressure on me next year,” he said. “We’re moving up to (Class) 4A and I think people will know a little more about me.
“But there’s nothing I want more than to win a ring and bring home a banner for Catholic.”