There were only two possible outcomes in Mount Airy’s tennis match with East Surry on Thursday, a match that saw eyes from both parts of Surry County trained on the Granite Bears’ courts — along with eyes from Kernersville as well.
The regular-season finale for both teams had implications for both schools, as well as for league rival Bishop McGuinness. If the Lady Cardinals, ranked No. 2 in the state by the N.C. High School Tennis Coaches Association, won the match, they would tie third-ranked Bishop for the Northwest Conference title. But if fifth-ranked Mount Airy could pull the upset, the Villains would take the conference outright, and the Lady Bears and Lady Cardinals would share second place, a game back in the final standings.
As it turned out, the suspense didn’t last long. East Surry played some of its best tennis of the season and won the match even before the doubles were under way. Two of the six singles matches went to a match tiebreaker, but the Lady Cardinals won both of them and took five of the six singles matches, with Mount Airy (11-6, 6-4 NW1A) winning only at No. 6. The Lady Bears also won at No. 1 doubles, but East captured the match and a share of the league title with a 7-2 victory.
Mount Airy’s hopes, as it turned out, hinged on the Nos. 1 and 3 singles. At No. 1, Haley Jennelle outlasted Elizabeth Marion in the first set, but Marion got up a break in set two, won it and forced a tiebreaker. She then won the tiebreaker set 10-5 to win the last singles match still on the courts, 7-5, 4-6 (10-5).
East Surry led 2-0 after taking the first two singles matches to wrap up. Haley Gilley rolled 6-1, 6-0 over Anna Kate Tucker at No. 5, and the No. 3 also went to a match tiebreaker. Mount Airy’s Olivia Perkins won the first set easily, but Sarah Mann evened things up in set two. The tiebreaker was just as close, with Mann winning the last five points to take the match 1-6, 6-3, (10-7).
The Lady Bears’ Olivia Malone won at No. 6 singles, beating Daphne Dotson 6-4, 6-1 to put her team on the board, but the Lady Cards went ahead 3-1 when Carson Payne finished her No. 4 singles match strong against Ashtyn Myers, winning 7-6 (10-2), 6-0. East made it 4-1 when the No. 2 singles went in favor of Abigail Martin over Meredith Marion, 7-5, 6-4.
When Jennelle won her tiebreaker, the Lady Cardinals could call themselves conference co-champs.
The Marions got a bit of revenge when they beat Jennelle and Mann 8-4 at No. 1 doubles, but the other two went to East Surry. Martin and Gilley outlasted Perkins and Malone, and Payne and Lili Craven downed Myers and Tucker, both by identical 8-6 margins.
The previous day, Mount Airy scored an 8-1 victory over North Stokes. Stokes’ Alyssa Collins scored a 6-2, 6-4 win over Elizabeth Marion for the Lady Vikings’ only win. Meredith Marion had a bit of a fight at No. 2, downing Brianna Lester 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), and Olivia Perkins stopped Tess Sprinkle 6-2, 7-5, but there was only one other set in the singles where a Lady Bear lost even four games. Perkins, Myers, Tucker and Malone all won in straight sets.
All three Lady Bears doubles teams also won their matches. Myers and Tucker lost six games at No. 3 doubles, but built a 4-1 lead and then held serve all but once to get the win.
Both teams will get ready for the conference tournament next week. Dual-team playoff brackets will be announced on Oct. 16. East Surry (14-3, 9-1 NW1A) is guaranteed a berth, and it is likely that the Lady Bears will be an at-large selection.