When it comes time to contest the individual conference tournament for tennis, teams almost always face a dilemma as to whether or not to send their top performers out for the singles or the doubles portion of the tournament. The stakes for everyone involved are significant, since whatever choice is made sticks for the regional and state individual tournaments as well.
For this year’s Northwest 1A Tournament, which begins this afternoon on the courts at Mount Airy High School, both league co-champions played to their strengths. The Granite Bears entered their two top players in the singles tournament, while the Bishop McGuinness Villains sent their best into the doubles field.
Hunt Harrison, the lone senior on the Bears’ squad, is the No. 1 overall seed in the singles tournament. Harrison, who played No. 1 singles all season when healthy, owns a perfect 18-0 record in singles and a 7-0 mark in doubles this year. In addition, Mount Airy entered its No. 2 seed, Emory Bray, in the singles tournament. The sophomore also owned a perfect record until Tuesday, going 18-0 overall and 8-0 in conference action before losing in the playoff-seeding match against Bishop yesterday. Bray is the third seed for the conference tournament. In between the pair is Walkertown senior Jarod Gandy, who went 8-4 overall and 5-2 in conference as the Wolfpack’s No. 1 singles player. Gandy’s only two conference losses came at the hands of Harrison.
The Bears’ duo are actually not the only unbeaten players in the field. Bishop’s No. 4 player, Sam McDonald (13-0, 7-0) also comes in unbeaten. and its No. 6, Luke Kreber (5-1, 5-0) was until Mount Airy’s Cayden Hill beat him in Tuesday’s playoff-seeding match. Kreber is the sixth overall seed for the conference tournament and will play Bray in a second-round match on Wednesday.
Ten players make up the singles tournament. Action begins at 4:30 p.m., with seventh-seed Jared Solomon of Atkins facing No. 10 A.J. Key of East Surry, and No. 8 Clayton Woody of Walkertown taking on the Cardinals’ Ryan Presnell.
Harrison will face the winner of the Woody-Presnell match, while Gandy will take on the winner between Solomon and Key in a second-round match later today. The other second-round match on Wednesday pits Atkins’ Dillon Jennings and Bishop’s McDonald in the 4-5 match.
Semifinals and finals will be held on Thursday starting at 4:30.
Bishop entered its top two doubles teams in that tournament. The brother duo of senior Adam and freshman Alex Chinnasami are the top overall seed for the conference doubles, after going 5-3 overall and 4-1 in conference play this season. However, their lone regular-season conference loss came against Harrison and Bray teamed up as a doubles duo back on March 21, and they aren’t entered in this field. For good measure, the Villains also entered their No. 2 doubles team of sophomores Henry Kirby and Jimmy Dasher, who went 11-0 overall and 7-0 this season. Kirby and Dasher earned the second seed in the tournament.
Both Mount Airy and East Surry have two doubles teams entered. The Cardinals chose to send their No. 1 duo of Ryan Sigmon and Brandy Jessup, along with their No. 3 duo of freshmen Nathan Cox and Eli Gray. With Harrison and Bray both in the singles tournament, the Bears’ Nos. 2 and 3 doubles teams are in the conference tournament field. Hunter Eaton and Kaleb Morrison (6-3, 4-2), and Owen Perkins and Hill (9-4, 5-2) represent the Bears.
Both East Surry teams will play in the opening round of the doubles. At 4:30 p.m., Sigmon and Jessup will take on Anthony and Alex Dixon of Atkins, while Cox and Gray will take on Tucker Gowan and Alex Marshall of Walkertown. The winner of the first match gets the Chinnasami brothers in the second round, while the winner of the second one draws Kirby and Dasher.
Eaton and Morrison are the fourth seed in the tournament and will take on Wesley Briles and Lucas Dickson of Walkertown in the 4-5 match. Perkins and Hill are the sixth seed and will take on Akshat Dixit and Arel D’Agostino of Atkins (11-2, 6-2 this season).
As with the singles, semifinals will be held on Thursday starting at 4:30, with the championship matches to follow.