Prep tennis: Salisbury 6, West Stanly 0
By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY — Last year, Salisbury’s boys tennis team and Newton-Conover met in the 2A state semifinals.
This year, the playoff clash between perennial powers will arrive a few rounds earlier.
The Hornets blew through visiting West Stanly 6-0 on Tuesday in the opening round of the dual team playoffs to advance to face the top-ranked and defending champion Red Devils next Tuesday in Hickory.
Newton defeated the Hornets twice last year, including in the West region final, something no one from Salisbury has forgotten. Tuesday, Newton defeated Pigsah 9-0 in the first round to improve to 23-0.
Now it’s the Hornets turn to brace Newton’s homecourt, dubbed “The Pit.” Salisbury says this time its better suited to face the big, bad Red Devils.
“We were definitely surprised that they were going to come to us that early,” Salisbury senior Alex Weant said. “We definitely want to accept the challenge.”
Weant, a senior who’s 6-foot-7 stature has him primed to play basketball at Roanoke College, beat Daniel Jenkins 6-0, 6-0 to improve to 13-0 on the year. The smooth sailing was common for everyone in singles play for Salisbury (18-1).
“I felt today was one of the better matches we’ve played,” said Salisbury coach Chris Stroupe, who got his first playoff win as a coach. “We were more aggressive, had great serves and played all-around good tennis.”
Top-seeded Steven Page beat Weston Smith 6-0, 6-0. No. 2 Alan Lebowitz and third-seeded Lewis Young won by the same scores. Lebowitz’s opponent, Jake Whitley, carried a 11-1 record and was 10-0 in the No. 2 slot.
“I just kept the ball and placed it really well,” said Young, who will play tennis at Roanoke next year. “We just played our game.”
Seth Gentry topped Elliott Drake 6-2, 6-1 and Sophomore Brock Overcash defeated Dillon Burleson 6-2, 6-1. With singles play convincingly going in the Hornets’ favor, there were no doubles matches.
West was the No.2 finisher out of the Rocky River Conference and finished the season 11-2. Salisbury is ranked third in the latest N.C. High School Tennis Association Coaches Poll with Shelby sitting at No. 2.
“There was a sense of ease, but also a sense of nervousness for the next round,” Stroupe said. “I know Newton’s going to be tough and they’re going to be a challenge. We’re ready for it.”
Most of the Hornets will get a challenge before next week in this weekend’s individual regional at Catawba. On Friday and Saturday, Page and Lebowitz will participate in singles play in the regional while Weant/Gentry and Overcash/Lewis qualified for doubles.
“Luckily for us, we’re able to practice on Wednesday and Thursday as well,” Stroupe said. “It gives us time to work on things.”
Salisbury was coming off singles and doubles titles in the Central Carolina Conference tournament. The Hornets won the CCC for the third time in the past four seasons.