Mount Airy lost 6-3 to Bishop McGuinness in the marquee tennis match of the Northwest Conference.
The Granite Bears and Villains are perennially at the top of the league standings, and the winners of their head-to-head meetings determine the conference champion, both in boys’ and girls’ play.
Last fall, the Lady Bears had to play Bishop four times in one season before eventually taking their third straight state title.
In Tuesday’s match, the top three matches all ended fairly quickly, while the bottom three seeds played for two hours or more.
Mitch Kessler gave the Bears a 1-0 start with his 6-0, 6-1 win over Ben Jandzinski. The senior improved to 5-0 in singles play.
Bishop’s Zack Jones tied the score with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep in the third place over Jack Marion.
Then the Villains went ahead with a 6-0, 6-0 win by Sam McLaughry over Justin Leonard.
Quite a while later, sixth-seed Gentry Williamson tied the match 2-2 with a three-set win over Will Shannon.
The sophomore won the first set 6-3, then lost the second 2-6. He took the tiebreaker 10-5 for his second victory of the season.
Freshman Will Sparks was in an opposite pattern from Williamson, having lost his first set 3-6 before winning the second 6-3.
With that momentum, it appeared the Bears might take a 3-2 team lead.
However, Bishop’s Adam Chinnasani jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker.
Sparks took three of the next four points to close to 6-5, but the visiting player won four of the next five points for a 10-6 victory.
Fellow freshman Hunt Harrison lost his first singles match of the season. While the match was only two sets long, Harrison and Jonathan Ingram played longer than anyone else.
Ingram won 7-5, 6-4 to give Bishop a commanding 4-2 lead. The Villains needed just one doubles win.
Despite their long singles matches, Sparks and Harrison pulled off a 10-6 win in doubles against Andrew Balogh and Lance Ditterich. That made it 4-3 Bishop.
Coach Rodney Pell noted that the two freshmen have won every doubles match this season.
On Court Two, Leonard and Sam Brown lost the first three games before getting into a groove and winning four of the next five matches for a 4-4 tie. They trailed just 7-6 before losing the final three games to Jandzinski/Ingram.
That gave Bishop the team win.
On Court One, Kessler and Blake Hensley took a 2-1 lead, but then fell behind 3-4. The two sides split the next four games for a 5-6 margin, but Bishop took four of the last five matches for a 10-6 win for McLaughry/Jones.
The Bears came into the day 4-0, taking 34 of 36 matches over both singles and doubles.
Bishop was 1-1, having beaten East Surry, but losing to Reynolds 7-2.
The Bears won’t have to wait long to get back on the court, traveling to North Surry this afternoon. The Bears swept the Hounds 9-0 in the first meeting.