PILOT MOUNTAIN — The Mount Airy and Bishop McGuinness tennis teams will technically finish the 2016 season as co-champions of the Northwest Conference, but the Bears might look back on their title in a more favorable light.
The Bears earned a tight 5-4 victory over the Villains on Monday in the third match between the teams. Both squads finished the season 7-1 in the Northwest Conference and split their first two meetings. Monday’s battle served as a tiebreaker to determining who would be the league’s top-seed when the NCHSAA dual-team playoffs begin next week.
“We came out here and wanted that number-one seed in the playoffs,” Bear senior Gentry Williamson said. “I know we are both co-champions, but it still feels like we got (the championship) after today.”
Williamson had his fingertips all over Mount Airy’s victory, especially down the stretch when his team needed him most.
The deciding match was at the No. 2 doubles position after Mount Airy and Bishop split the first eight matches. Williamson and Emory Bray earned an early 4-1 lead, but Henry Kirby and Ivo Pestana rallied, winning seven of next 10 games for an 8-7 advantage.
The match eventually reached a 10-10 tie and needed a tiebreak to determine the Northwest’s top-seed. Both pairings rotated points, and neither team led by more than two until a Williamson volley at the net clinched an 11-10 (9-7) win and 5-4 team victory for Mount Airy.
“Some of those volleys were risky,” Williamson said. “My team came over and asked me what was I thinking trying to slam that, but it went in, so it felt nice. It felt a little awkward, but it happened to fall.”
Mount Airy needed the win after entering doubles tied at 3-3 and splitting the first two matches. The Bears No. 3 duo of Owen Perkins and Hunter Eaton defeated Luke Kreber and Michael Angino 10-5.
However, the Villains earned a critical comeback victory at No. 1 doubles to keep the drama alive. Mount Airy’s Hunt Harrison and Harrison Morris led 8-5, but Adam Chinnasami and Lance Dittrich won five straight to earn a 10-8 victory.
When Chinnasami and Dittrich clinched their win to tie the match at 4-4, Williamson and Bray were down 9-10. The No. 2 doubles team for Mount Airy responded to the pressure, and Bray held on his serve to force the tiebreaker.
The closest singles matches of the afternoon each went in favor of the Villains on Monday. Chinnasami defeated Morris 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 at the No. 2 position, and Victor Carbone beat Grey Tucker 6-1, 4-6, 10-6 in the five-seed match.
But Mount Airy’s three singles victories all came relatively easy. The Bears earned wins from No. 1 Harrison (6-2, 6-3), No. 3 Williamson (6-1, 6-3) and No. 6 Eaton (6-4, 6-2).
Bishop’s third singles victory was a 6-4, 7-5 win for four-seed Pestana.
Both teams will return to the courts tomorrow, but this time for some individual bragging rights. Mount Airy hosts the two-day conference tournament that will crown a doubles and singles champion.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16