NORWOOD — Despite finishing third in the Northwest 1A Conference and needing a wild-card berth to make it back to the state playoffs this fall, Mount Airy’s tennis team ended the 2017 regular season as the state’s seventh-ranked 1A team.
North Stanly won’t dispute that, as the Lady Bears dropped in for a visit in the first round of the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs on Wednesday evening and walked out of town with a 5-2 victory.
Mount Airy (12-6 overall) won four of the six singles matches and advanced as soon as Elizabeth and Meredith Marion wrapped up a 10-5 victory in the No. 1 doubles match. As normally happens in postseason play, the dual-team match ended as soon as one team clinched the victory.
The Lady Bears started the match strong, wrapping up the first two singles matches and three of the first four with a win. Meredith Marion was the first to put up a team point, taking the first set easily and the winning an early break in the second as she beat Elaine Hudson 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2. Out of the 4-hole, Ashtyn Myers made it 2-0 when she took her match against Andi Billingsley. Myers swept six games in set one, but then double-faulted in the first game of the second set and went down a break. Despite losing a second break at 3-3, she bounced back and won 6-0, 6-4.
The third match to finish was a thriller at No. 1 singles, where Merianne Hunt of the Comets outlasted Elizabeth Marion 7-5, 7-6 (10-8). The elder Marion actually held three set points in the second set to force a match tiebreaker, but couldn’t pull it off. Things weren’t looking particularly good for the Lady Bears when freshman Olivia Perkins, playing third singles, also got caught up in a wild match with Stanly’s Faith Wang in which the two were frequently breaking each other on serve. Perkins led 5-2 in set one, but needed a break to win it 7-5, then faltered in set two after leading 4-1. She ended up losing a set tiebreaker before righting the ship in the match tiebreaker and giving Mount Airy a 3-1 lead in the team tally with her 7-5, 6-7 (5-7), 1-0 (10-4) victory.
The fifth singles was another long match, and this one went to the Comets. Josie Luther of North Stanly and Anna Kate Tucker traded long set wins, and then Luther won seven of the first eight points of the tiebreaker. Tucker came back with six straight of her own, but couldn’t complete the comeback, falling 5-7, 7-5, 1-0 (10-8) to Luther.
North Stanly (12-3) needed the No. 6 singles to secure a split, but Olivia Malone lost just one service game in downing Vanna Vang 6-0, 6-3.
When the Marions won their doubles match, it was over. Perkins and Malone were tied 2-2 at No. 2 doubles when the match ended, and the third doubles never got under way.
On Friday, the Marion sisters represented the Lady Bears in the 1A West Region individual tournament at Elkin Municipal Park, where they defeated Mia Taggart and Haley Loflin of Gray Stone Day 6-1, 6-0 in the opening round. Unfortunately, they had to take on Claire Rogers and Lydia Cortes of Bishop McGuinness in the second round, a much tougher assignment, and lost this one 6-3, 6-4. They had beaten the Bishop pair in the conference tournament last week, but couldn’t repeat the feat on Friday.
Mount Airy will play in the second round of the dual-team playoffs on Tuesday at East Wilkes (12-5), the state’s fourth-ranked 1A team.