For the first time since 2010, Mount Airy tennis can hang a Northwest 1-A Conference championship banner.
The Granite Bears will have to share the honor with longtime nemesis Bishop McGuinness, but the shared title was enough for now as Mount Airy finished 7-1 in NW1A action with a 9-0 shutout of East Surry on Thursday evening.
The Bears (15-1 overall) were celebrating senior day and got both of the team’s seniors into the starting lineup on the occasion. Gentry Williamson checked into his No. 3 singles spot and earned a double-bagel win, while Coach Rodney Pell assigned reserve Griffin Spencer to the starting six and watched as he earned a victory, too.
The top three Mount Airy singles players all won without losing a game. Hunt Harrison beat Daniel Hancock 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1, and Harrison Morris did the same to Austin Pardue at No. 2. Williamson’s double-bagel over Ryan Sigmon took a little longer, giving the Bears a 4-0 lead. Between Harrison’s and Williamson’s wins, Emory Bray had closed out a 6-0, 6-2 win over Ryan Sutterby at No. 4. Bray actually lost on serve when he was going for the match at 5-1, but then broke back to claim the victory. At No. 5, Grey Tucker got his hiccup out of the way early, losing on serve to open his match with Brady Jessup, but then going on to win 6-2, 6-2.
Mount Airy had the team win and the conference co-championship, but there were still the doubles to play, as well as Spencer’s home finale. He held serve just once in the first set and lost it 6-1 to East’s Lucas Bonilla, but settled down after that. In the second set, the two traded service wins until Spencer earned at break at 5-4 to win the set and force a tiebreaker set. Spencer won the first three points of the tiebreaker, but Bonilla battled back to 7-7 before Spencer won three of the last four points to finish the singles sweep.
The doubles were just a formality. Harrison and Morris defeated Hancock and Bonilla 8-0 at No. 1 doubles, but were actually the final team to close out their match. Williamson and Bray downed Sigmon and Sutterby 8-1 at No. 2 for a 7-0 lead, and then Owen Perkins and Hunter Eaton topped Pardue and Jessup 8-2 at No. 3 doubles.
It was the eighth 9-0 shutout of the season for the Bears, who succeeded in capturing a conference title in their final regular-season match after coming up short in 2012 and 2015. On both occasions, Mount Airy faced Bishop in the regular-season finale with a chance to tie the Villains for first, only to lose 5-4.
The two teams will have to play a rubber match for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming NCHSAA 1-A playoffs, although it won’t count in the conference standings. The date and location for this match has not been determined yet.
Mount Airy visits West Stokes for a non-conference match today. East Surry (3-10, 2-5) is scheduled to play Atkins on Tuesday.