Prep Tennis: Salisbury's Ogden wins 2A singles championship
By Ryan Bisesi
CARY — Be it the PA announcer from the track meet at nearby Green Hope High or commercial jets preparing to land at Raleigh Durham International, rattling the head of Salisbury’s Michael Ogden was inevitable Saturday at the NCHSAA state 2A individual championships.
As long as the freshman’s right arm was OK, everything else was background noise.
The freshman shook off initial jitters and set the stage for glory, winning Salisbury’s first individual state title since Eric Saunders’ third straight in 1993 on Saturday at Cary Tennis Park.
Ogden wasn’t born yet in 1993, but he came alive with the type of day he has made standard.
In the semifinal, Ogden beat Shelby’s Ray Webb Parker 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 in a grueling match that was too intense for 9 a.m. on a Saturday. South Iredell’s Patrick Hensley reached the final for the second-straight year and Ogden prevailed 6-4, 6-0. Except for the nerves, it was a very un-freshman-like performance.
“I was nervous and he came out on fire,” said a more relaxed Ogden with a state title plaque wrapped around his arm. “He was pounding the ball and I wasn’t playing my best. After the first set, I told myself not to quit.”
“Of course, he’s 15, there’s going to be some nerves,” Salisbury coach Chris Stroupe said. “Going against a very, very good player to start off with, he told me was nervous.”
Parker was on the verge of a three-set victory, building leads of 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4. Ogden didn’t surrender.
“He had to overcome a lot of difficult shots from Parker,” Stroupe said. “I think he just was able to work through them with different ideas, different scenarios.”
Ogden tied it at 5 and scored the final three points en route to improving his record to 24-1 with a dual-team match at Owen next week.
“I’m happy right now,” Ogden said. “Now, we have to focus on team states and maybe get another one.”
There was an hour break between matches with Ogden regrouping and refocusing.
Against Hensley, Ogden overcame the senior’s championship experience to lead through most of the first set, breaking a 4-all tie with the final two points. It was Ogden’s 27th straight win.
“I don’t think you can get much better than him,” Abraham Post said of Ogden.
Ogden beat Parker 6-3, 6-4 in a regular season match on March 27. Parker was feistier this time, taking the first set 6-1. Ogden returned the favor with a 6-1 win in the second set to force a third.
“I started moving my feet more and hitting the ball better,” Ogden said. “I started getting more in the flow of things.”
The matchup carries more intrigue with the two potentially clashing in the dual-team West Region final. If each team wins its third-round playoff match, Salisbury would travel to Shelby.
Post, a freshman, and senior Alan Lebowitz reached the semifinal and were downed 6-1, 6-2 by Newton-Conover’s doubles team of Ryan Lampe/John Tate. Lampe and Tate won the doubles championship as Newton-Conover claimed doubles for the third year in a row.
“They caught us on a day where we weren’t playing our best and it didn’t work out for us,” Lebowitz said.
“I think today’s a really good experience,” Post said. “I’m going to carry it with me the next few years.”
Post/Lebowitz defeated Owen team of Oscar Zamora/Ben Keefer 6-1, 6-4 and Pittsboro Northwood’s Chris Cole/Zafer Estill 6-3, 6-2 Friday to make all-state. Lebowitz, playing in the state final for the third-straight year, reached a goal with the distinction.
“I’m really excited we made it this far,” Lebowitz said. “It’s been a goal of mine since I was a freshman.”
NOTES: Ogden won the Midwest Region singles crown and Lebowitz/Post won the doubles title. … Rowan County produced yet another champion in Chad Hoskins, who lives in Spencer but attends Reynolds High School in Winston-Salem. He teamed with Paul Yamane to win the 4A doubles crown beating Greensboro Grimsley’s Will Albright and Graham Pearson 6-3, 6-1.