If anyone wants to get the Mount Airy tennis team, they’d better do it while they can.
The Lady Bears lost five senior starters from last year’s team that posted a 26-2 season and finished as state 1A runners-up, but neither head coach Rodney Pell nor anyone else is crying about this year’s team, which is currently ranked No. 4 in the state’s 1A ranks by the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association despite starting a freshman and four sophomores.
The only problem is who is ranked Nos. 2 and 3, respectively — Northwest 1A Conference rivals East Surry and Bishop McGuinness, respectively.
Mount Airy (4-3, 1-1 NW1A) hosted Bishop on Wednesday afternoon and took its first conference loss of the season, falling 7-2 to the Villains. Almost every match was competitive, but Bishop was able to come out on top in five of the six singles matches and already had the team win by the time the doubles rolled around.
The Lady Bears won at No. 2 singles and at No. 3 doubles. A few of the other matches hinged on little more than a service break here or there, but that will likely be of little solace to Mount Airy, which dropped into third place in the league standings with the setback. East Surry edged Bishop 5-4 in a match down in Kernersville last week.
Meredith Marion had the singles win for the Lady Bears. Mount Airy was already down 2-0 after defeats at No. 5 and No. 1 singles by the time she wrapped up her win over fellow sophomore Lydia Cortes in a match tiebreaker. This match was actually unusual in that it was almost always one-sided, with each player earning multiple breaks in a set win. Something had to give in the doubles. Marion edged out to a 4-3 lead, won three of the next five points to lead 7-5, and finally claimed the win, 6-1, 2-6, (10-6).
At No. 1 singles, Elizabeth Marion lost 6-4, 6-4 to Becky Auger. Anna Kate Tucker had led Megan Standen 4-3 in set one of their match, but then her game unraveled and she lost nine of the next 10 games and the No. 5 match, 6-4, 6-1.
With Bishop still up 2-1, the tide continued to favor the Villains. Olivia Perkins led 3-2 in the opening set at No. 3 singles, only to see Claire Rogers mount a furious charge, winning four straight games for set one and then rolling to a 6-3, 6-2 victory.
The No. 4 singles followed the same script. Ashtyn Myers led 3-2 in the opening set and then began to struggle, allowing the Villains’ Michelle Petrangeli to take a 6-4, 6-2 victory. Olivia Malone was the last Lady Bear on the court, and she won the first three games of the No. 6 singles match before also coming unglued and falling 7-5, 6-0 against Charlotte Dabar.
The Villains (4-2, 1-1) won two of the three doubles matches by an 8-4 count in each. However, it was the Lady Bears’ No. 3 doubles pairing of Perkins and Malone who wrapped up first, beating Standen and Isabel Bermudez 8-4, and stayed undefeated as a team this season at 5-0.
Auger and Rogers scored a win over the Marions by the same score, and then Cortes and Petrangeli were able to do the same to Myers and Tucker, winning five of the last six games.
Assuming the Phoenix is able to field a team, the Lady Bears will host Winston-Salem Prep on Thursday.
Reach John via Twitter at @joihncate73.