PFAFFTOWN — The perfect season of the Mount Airy tennis team finally came to an end on Wednesday evening.
If the Lady Bears went down, they can at least say they didn’t go down without a fight.
Their first loss came in a road trip to Reagan High School, a strong 4A team that had faced nothing but larger schools before hosting Mount Airy. The Raiders (4-1) pulled out a 5-4 victory over Mount Airy, beating the Lady Bears Nos. 5 and 6 singles players by razor-thin margins. This gave Reagan a 4-2 lead going into the doubles, and the Lady Bears’ victories at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles left them one victory short, 5-4.
The loss drops Mount Airy’s overall record to 9-1, but under the circumstances, there was no shame in the outcome.
Excessive heat at match time forced both coaches to agree to a delay in the start of the match. The singles matches didn’t begin until 5:30 p.m., and the format was changed to a single set to 10 games for the singles. Mount Airy was without its top player, Elizabeth Marion, who was held out due to injury. This moved everyone in the lineup a spot higher, and Reagan’s top two singles players, Caroline Richter and Katie Schoulda, took advantage by rolling to identical 10-1 victories over the Lady Bears’ Bailey Jackson and Logan King for a quick 2-0 lead.
What looked like a rout for Reagan quickly turned, though. Mount Airy’s top-to-bottom depth allowed it to bet back into the match, with Lisa Omuro, also playing one spot higher than normal, drubbing Jasmine Su 10-3 at No. 4 singles. Maya Hicks, playing at No. 3, evened the team score when she wrapped up a 10-6 victory over Claire Carter.
The outcome ultimately rested, some would say unfairly, on the result of the No. 6 singles match between Meredith Marion (normally the Lady Bears’ seventh seed) against Niya Grant. The Mount Airy freshman was broken on serve at 4-4 and 7-7, saved two match points at 7-9, and rallied to force the match into a 10-10 tie. This sent the match to a tiebreaker set, where Marion managed to built a 5-4 lead in a match to seven, but then lost the last three points.
The Lady Bears still had a chance to split the singles, with No. 5 Elizabeth Bray on the court against the Raiders’ Riley Bostian. Bray twice rallied from three games down, at 2-5 and then 4-7, and won five out of six games to lead the match 9-8. However, she was unable to hold serve at 9-8 and again at 9-10, which allowed Bostian to pull the match out and give Reagan a 4-2 lead in the singles.
The match was decided not long after, with Richter and Schoulda again taking advantage of Mount Airy’s shorthanded lineup in an 8-2 victory over Jackson and Meredith Marion, a pairing that Mount Airy coach Rodney Pell wouldn’t have used under normal circumstances.
Although beaten on the scoreboard, the Lady Bears’ makeshift Nos. 2 and 3 doubles teams still had pride to play for, and they both claimed hard-fought victories. At No. 2, King and Bray lost three of the first five matches and then took the upper hand, eventually downing Su and Bostian 8-6. The No. 3 doubles match, the last one of the day to end, saw Hicks and Omuro take the lead right away and never trail, as Carter and Grant stayed close but never led in an 8-6 Lady Bear victory.
Mount Airy improved to 10-1 on Thursday, when it received a forfeit from Winston-Salem Prep. The Lady Bears return to action on Monday at East Wilkes. They’ll get a chance to avenge the loss to Reagan when they come to town on Oct. 3.