Prep Tennis: Salisbury's Page continues late-season push
By Bret Strelow
Steven Page took another step forward during the first round of the dual-team playoffs.
Salisbury’s season ended Wednesday, but Page will continue his individual run today at the 2A tennis championships in Cary.
Page, the Midwest Regional singles champion as a sophomore, will take an 18-3 record into his state tournament matchup against West Regional No. 4 seed Chase Smith of Ashe County.
Page opened last week with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Shelby’s Ryan Poage, a 2008 state quarterfinalist, and the Hornets advanced to the second round of the dual-team playoffs with a 5-4 victory. Page then capped a busy weekend with a straight-set win in the regional final, and he picked up his first victory in three tries against Lexington’s Justin Miller two days ago in the Hornets’ 5-4 playoff loss.
“Steven’s in the zone, and I think the corner was turned down 3-0 in the second set to Shelby the other week,” Salisbury coach Chris Myers said. “It was just a matter of saying, ‘Look, you need to start hitting through the ball and continuing to be aggressive and realize you’re going to make some bad shots and mistakes but not dwell on that.’
“That’s really what separates the good players from the very good players. It’s the ones that can hit through the nerves and continue to play their game and dictate play. That’s what Steven’s done since that point.”
Miller handed Page his only two losses in the regular season, and Ledford’s Landon Rogers beat Page in the CCC tournament final.
Page, who played postseason doubles as a freshman and lost in the first round of the regional, entered this year’s singles event at nearby Catawba College as the No. 4 seed. He dropped a combined two games in a pair of victories that qualified him for the state tournament.
Page faced top seed Huntley Nero of Hibriten in the semifinals and led 4-2 in the third set when Nero had to default because of an injury. Page had won the first set 6-2 and lost the second set in a tiebreaker.
Page prevailed 7-5, 6-1 against Rogers in the final, becoming Salisbury’s first regional champion on the boys side since 1994.
“I did not think I could do that, honestly,” Page said. “I served a lot better than I have during conference, and that kept me from being on defense. I didn’t give up as many free points, and I thought my ground strokes were good too.”
Page struggled to close out Miller on Wednesday yet stuck to his successful approach in a 6-4, 7-5 victory.
Page is scheduled to meet Smith today at 10 a.m., and the winner will play either Nolan Outlaw of East Duplin or Greg Galush of Cardinal Gibbons later in the day. Outlaw was a state quarterfinalist in 2008, and Galush is the fourth-seeded player on the state’s top-ranked 2A team.
“Only being a sophomore, it’s incredible the fact (Page) qualified and is a regional champion, which, in effect, gives him the No. 1 seed in his quarter,” Myers said. “I think there’s some definite opportunities for him to have a very successful tournament.”