Prep tennis: Lexington 5, Salisbury 4
By Bret Strelow
LEXINGTON ó The six members of Salisbury’s lineup formed a circle as they stood on a Bingham Tennis Center court before the start of doubles, and Wes McNeely sprang forward to chest-bump 6-foot-6 teammate Alex Weant.
The Hornets almost elevated their play enough to pull off a stirring comeback victory.
Salisbury, needing a doubles sweep to stay alive in the 2A playoffs, fell 5-4 at rival Lexington in second-round action Wednesday. The Yellow Jackets advanced to a state quarterfinal matchup with Ledford, the CCC’s other tri-champion.
McNeely-Seth Gentry won 10-4 against Filiepe Sanchez-Adam McKerlie at No. 3, and the pairing of Weant-Steven Page was well on its way to a 10-3 victory against Charles Chisholm-Alan Heiss as a tight match at No. 1 concluded.
Lexington’s Justin Miller-Charlie Jordan claimed the final three games in a 10-8 win against Austin Flynn-Alan Lebowitz to clinch the team victory for the Yellow Jackets (12-2) in their third 5-4 thriller with Salisbury (13-4) this year.
“Having to sweep doubles is certainly a daunting task, but at some point in the first two matches every one of our doubles teams out there had success and had won a match, if not two in the case of our No. 1 team, against Lexington,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “With that being said, 4-2 is difficult, but I certainly thought it was realistic. It almost worked out for us.”
The teams split during the season, and Salisbury also trailed 4-2 entering doubles in the match it lost on March 17. Flynn-Lebowitz swept Miller-Jordan, but the Lexington tandem prevailed in the CCC tournament final.
Flynn-Lebowitz fell behind 3-1 in the 10-game pro set Wednesday, took six of the next seven games and then dropped six of the final seven.
“You have to play doubles with those guys, come in, kamikaze, keep charging, keep coming in off everything whether it’s a smart shot or not, to get them out of their element,” Lexington coach Varner Sink said. “Hopefully we’ll get them in our territory, which is a tight, quick-response, reaction-type tennis. We tend to do better like that.”
Flynn-Lebowitz led 7-4 before Lexington stormed back to even the score. Lebowitz held serve for an 8-7 edge.
Miller-Jordan took 12 of the final 13 points, with each player holding serve at love.
“(Jordan) stopped making any mistakes whatsoever and was serving big,” Myers said. “Justin was serving big throughout the match as well. Sometimes Charlie can be a bit streaky, but when he settles down, he’s as good as anybody in the conference, singles or doubles. I think he certainly demonstrated that in the latter part of the match.”
Salisbury’s only singles wins came from Page (6-4, 7-5 over Miller at No. 1) and Weant (6-2, 6-2 over McKerlie at No. 6).
The Yellow Jackets jumped ahead thanks to victories from Jordan (6-3, 6-1 over Flynn at No. 2) and Heiss (6-4, 6-1 over Gentry at No. 4).
Weant was the first Salisbury player to scratch, and Sanchez followed with a 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 win against McNeely at No. 5. Page’s victory preceded Chisholm’s 6-2, 6-3 decision against the previously unbeaten Lebowitz at No. 3.
Page, who won the 2A Midwest Regional singles title Saturday, lost a pair of third-set tiebreakers to Miller during the regular season.
The second set Wednesday was tied at 4-all before Page broke at love, and he went ahead 40-0 on his serve to earn three match points. Miller won the next five points to break back.
Page earned another break in the next game and clinched the victory with a crisp forehand winner.
“I got tight there at the end,” Page said. “I was able to break him the next game and relaxed some and was able to close it out. I was just really happy there because, after winning regionals, I really didn’t want to lose another singles match to him even though he’s good. The third time was the charm.”