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Prep tennis: Salisbury 5, Shelby 4

By Bret Strelow
bstrelow@salisburypost.com
Dramatic matches have distinguished Salisbury’s tennis season, and another one extended it.The Hornets hit the road for the first round of the 2A playoffs and pulled out a 5-4 win against Southwestern Conference champion Shelby on Tuesday.
Salisbury, which shared the CCC title with Lexington and Ledford, took a 4-2 lead into doubles against the Golden Lions (10-2). A short shower then drenched the courts at the high school, which doesn’t have lights, and the teams relocated to Shelby Middle.
Salisbury dropped the first two doubles matches, but Steven Page-Alex Weant broke the tie with a 10-6 win against the second-seeded tandem of Andrew Dixon-Ben Cheaney.
“It was a great first-round victory,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “We had to go on the road, a long road trip, had to deal with the rain and the late night, the fact we were so close to putting the match away and having to suck it up and head back out there for doubles.
“The last couple of matches they’ve done a great job sticking with the gameplan and keeping their wits about them.”
Page, Weant, Austin Flynn and Alan Lebowitz claimed singles wins for the Hornets (13-3). They will face the winner of a postponed match between Lexington and Maiden next week in the second round.
Salisbury, which suffered a pair of 5-4 losses in conference play and clinched a piece of the league title with a 5-4 win at Lexington, almost eliminated Shelby before the start of doubles. Fifth-seeded Eric Wehmueller saved a match point in the second set before prevailing 3-6, 7-5, (10-8) against Wes McNeely.
Shelby’s Ryan Poage-Nick Borders (over Flynn-Lebowitz) and Wehmueller-Chris Carter (over McNeely-Seth Gentry) both won 10-4 in doubles.
“We were that close to being out of there, on the road with a 5-1 victory,” Myers said. “Shelby found a second wind and jumped on us in doubles. We did a great job of keeping our composure.
“Alex did a great job holding his serve, and Steven did a great job as well. He was getting his first serves in, and that allowed Alex to get points at the net. It worked to perfection. Alex hit some shots I didn’t know he was capable of hitting.”
The No. 3 doubles match was tied at 5-all before Page-Weant pulled away.
Weant, a 6-foot-6 basketball standout who is the tennis team’s No. 6 seed, has thrived in a pairing with Salisbury’s top player. He won 6-4, 6-3 against Carter in singles and didn’t have his serve broken in doubles.
“I slowed things down on my first serve and just focused on getting shots back across the net and letting them make the mistake,” Weant said.
“There was a lot of tension at the beginning, but once we started playing, I tried to block everything else out. I’m ecstatic; I was playing very well. It’s euphoria.”
Salisbury swept the top three singles matches from Shelby, which picked up a 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 4 from Cheaney.
Page won 6-2, 6-4 against Poage, and Flynn came out on top with a 6-3, 7-5 decision against Borders. Lebowitz, a freshman, remained unbeaten with a 6-2, 6-0 victory against Dixon.
“Th guys, their biggest asset is composure and resiliency,” Myers said. “We’ve seen that the last few matches out, winning 5-4 against Lexington, 5-4 here. It’s a lot better being on the winning side of 5-4.”

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