“I think it’s every coach’s dream to go out on top,” Byrd said. “A lot of us have to leave when things aren’t good because people want us gone. But to end on this glorious note I was like ‘thank you God for looking out for me.’ I didn’t deserve this but thank you. It felt great.”
On May 10, St. Pius edged Woodward Academy 3-2 for the Class AAA championship.
“It was two teams that deserved to be in the state finals,” Byrd said. “In my heart, I felt like if we played them 10 times, we’d win five and they’d win five. It just broke our way.”
At first, the outcome looked bleak for the Golden Lions since Austin Causey trailed 3-0 in the third set of the No. 2 singles match. But the senior would rally for a 7-5 victory, which clinched St. Pius’ first state title since 2004.
“It was just an exciting way to win,” Byrd said. “My guys were beyond ecstatic. All 13 of them came running over to me. It was an exciting moment for me. Those guys were happy for themselves and I think happy for me too.”
Parker Jones also won his No. 3 singles match and Sean Kelly and Nat Weiert were victorious in their No. 2 doubles match.
Byrd’s replacement has yet to be named but he will remain at St. Pius as a counselor and the director of admissions.
“I’ve been blessed to be able to work with these kids for 35 years,” Byrd said. “I’ve had some great kids and great families — a lot of incredible moments. In any form of athletics and certainly in tennis, you get real close because you feel like you are going to battle together.”