The long-awaited showdown between the Mount Airy and Elkin tennis teams produced some well-played tennis, but unfortunately wasn’t the measuring stick that many fans on both sides hoped for.
The once-beaten Granite Bears and the previously unbeaten Buckin’ Elks had met in the season opener for both teams on March 1, but rain had called a halt to proceedings after they played the six singles matches to a 3-all deadlock. Over the next 43 days, the teams played 25 matches between them with only one defeat — a largely self-inflicted 5-4 loss by the Bears to Bishop McGuinness last week.
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated unfinished business with Elkin turned out to be less than meaningful for both sides. The Elks’ No. 1 singles player, 2015 1A state semifinalist Ryan Macy, was unavailable for the matches, and as a result, Elkin had little chance of competing with the Granite Bears. Mount Airy swept the doubles matches to complete the March 1 match as a 6-3 victory, then downed the Elks by the same score in the regularly scheduled match.
The victories improved the Bears’ season slate to 14-1 overall, one of the best, if not the best, records in the 1A West. Elkin dropped to 12-2 on the season. The question of which team is better, however, will have to be settled another day.
The only impact that Macy made on Wednesday was to give his team a point in the carryover portion from March 1, where he had beaten Mount Airy’s Hunt Harrison in straight sets. The Bears earned the wins at Nos. 2-4 singles, behind Harrison Morris, Gentry Williamson and Emory Bray, respectively. Elkin prevailed at Nos. 5 and 6 behind Reid Turner and Asher McRitchie. The wins for Morris and McRitchie were both decided in third-set tiebreakers that reached 11 and 12 points, respectively.
Action began with the doubles that needed to be made up. With no Macy, the Elks had to shuffle their lineup and the Bears swept the matches with ease. Harrison and Morris beat Jarrett Peterson and Isaac Powell 8-3, Williamson and Bray downed Silas Coley and Daniel Soos 8-4, and Hunter Eaton and Owen Perkins topped Turner and McRitchie 8-1.
The victory marked the first time in a number of years that Mount Airy had beaten Elkin. The second time was coming right up, as the Bears proceeded to defeat the depleted, but highly motivated Elks a second time.
Mount Airy predictably swept the top four singles matches in the second go-round. Harrison beat Peterson 6-2, 6-0; Morris downed Powell 6-0, 6-1; Williamson topped Turner 6-0, 6-4; and Bray defeated Coley 6-1, 6-3. Harrison and Morris were never even broken on serve, and neither was Williamson until he led 5-2 in the second set. The break allowed Turner to close to within 5-4, but Williamson held for the win. Bray lost two of the first three games in his second set and then won five out of six.
The Elks won the last two singles matches. This time, Elkin matched up Soos against Tucker, and he prevailed 6-2, 6-2 to get the visitors their first point. The No. 6 singles rematched Eaton and McRitchie. In March, Eaton had rallied to win on a tiebreaker after they split sets. This time, he led 4-3 in the opening set, but was broken there and again at 4-5 to lose, then dropped the second set as well.
Elkin briefly made it interesting in the doubles. Turner and McRitchie turned the tables on Eaton and Perkins at No. 3 doubles with an 8-0 sweep that made the team score 4-3. But the other two matches were not competitive. Williamson and Bray downed Coley and Soos 8-1 to clinch the Mount Airy win, and then Harrison and Morris beat Peterson and Powell 8-2 to close it out.
The Granite Bears can lock up no worse than a Northwest 1A Conference co-championship today, when they take on East Surry. If Mount Airy and Bishop tie for the NW1A title, they will play a rubber match for the top overall seed before the playoffs begin.
Reach John on Twitter at @johncate73.