In many ways, the second meeting of the season between Mount Airy and longtime tennis rival Bishop McGuinness was a lot like the first.
The match went back and forth, with neither side backing down from the other, and a number of the matches came down to just a few points. Unfortunately, this time it was the Villains who came out on top in most of the crucial situations, and that was enough to take a 7-2 victory Thursday evening.
“Bishop had better net play than the first time we played them,” said Mount Airy coach Rodney Pell. “They hit more winners at the net.”
The win all but assures that Bishop (10-3, 8-1 Northwest Conference) will claim the conference title. The Villains still have two matches remaining, but they will be huge favorites to beat Atkins and Walkertown next week.
Mount Airy will be battling East Surry for the second spot in the conference. The teams meet in the regular-season finale on Oct. 8 in Pilot Mountain, and the loser will likely need a wild card to reach the state playoffs.
For the Lady Bears (16-2, 6-2), the difference between victory and defeat largely hinged on the outcome of two singles matches and a doubles match, all narrowly won by the Villains. One of the key singles battles was at No. 4, where Mount Airy’s Maya Hicks dueled Claire Rogers, losing in straight sets, 7-6 (7-0), 6-4. Both sets were literally decided by only a few points, with Hicks rallying from a deficit in the second set to 4-5 and nearly forcing a tiebreaker, which Pell thought would work in her favor. However, Rogers was able to hold on and ultimately win the set.
The other close match that went Bishop’s way may have been the match of the year in the NWC. This one did go to a tiebreaker, after Elizabeth Marion dropped the first set 6-2, but then turned the tables on Bishop’s Anna Petrangeli and overwhelmed her in set two, rolling to a 6-0 win with three service breaks. That sent it to a tiebreaker set, where Petrangeli won four of the first six points.
Unwilling to go down without a fight, Marion won the next three in succession to lead, and was in front 7-6 when a light drizzle made the court too slick to play on. Coach Pell went on the court with a leaf blower and dried the court after the rain stopped.
Petrangeli and Marion played on after a delay of about 20 minutes. Each player had two match points as the showdown wound down. Leading 12-11, Marion nearly had victory on a return volley, but she couldn’t reach the ball and it landed about two inches inside the sideline. Petrangeli managed to win the next two points and take the match.
The Villians ended the singles portion of the match with a 4-2 lead, one better than they did on Sept. 8 when the teams split the singles in a 5-4 win for the Bears. Mount Airy won the Nos. 5 and 6 doubles matches with relative ease, with Logan King beating Melanie Vynalek 6-2, 7-5 and Elizabeth Bray defeating Candyce Sturgeon 6-2, 6-0 in the first match played to completion. Bishop McGuinness did the same at Nos. 1 and 3, as Morgan Auger topped Lauren Brintle 6-3, 6-1 and Becky Auger beat Coleman Craddock 6-4, 6-1.
The Bears needed a sweep of the doubles, but Bishop took an early lead in all three matches and ended up winning all of them. Auger and Petrangeli topped Brintle and Craddock 10-3 at No. 1, and Vynalek and Sturgeon held off King and Bray 10-6 at No. 3. The No. 2 doubles match was the last to be completed. It saw Mount Airy’s Marion and Hicks rally from three down to tie the match at 8-8, but then drop the final two games and suffer their first loss of the season, 10-8 to Auger and Rogers.
The Bears return to action on Monday at North Stokes.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.