A few adjustments to the lineup and a change of venue were all it took for Mount Airy to avenge one of its two losses this season.
The sixth-ranked Granite Bears had sustained a loss when they traveled to Reagan High School 11 days earlier, but head coach Rodney Pell has since switched up his doubles lineups, and Mount Airy has a little more match experience under its belts since the last time it faced the Raiders. When Reagan came to town for the rematch on Tuesday, the Bears were ready.
The Raiders, who lead the Central Piedmont 4A Conference, tried to throw Mount Airy a curveball of their own, having shuffled every spot but their Nos. 1 and 2 singles since the first meeting. But Pell’s changes turned out to be the better ones on this evening, and Mount Airy scored a 6-3 victory.
The Bears (5-2 overall) reversed the verdicts in three of the previous matches. No. 2 singles player Harrison Morris avenged his earlier defeat to Reagan’s Ethan Evans, and instead of getting swept by the Raiders in the doubles, this time Mount Airy won two of the three matches.
A strength of this year’s Mount Airy team has been the work of No. 4 singles player Kaleb Morrison, who entered Tuesday’s match undefeated at singles. He got the Bears off to a good start in the rematch. After trailing 3-4 in set one, he won 10 of 11 games and defeated Nick Rieker 7-5, 6-0 for the first team point of the day. Then No. 1 Emory Bray also upped his personal record to 7-0 with an easy 6-2, 6-3 victory over Caleb Richmond. Hunter Eaton had an easy first-set victory in set one against Kristna Kriplani and then trailed 0-40 to start the first game of set two. He rallied for a break, and needed it when Kriplani later broke him twice. He rallied to win the last three games of the set and take the match 6-1, 6-3.
The next two singles matches went to the Raiders. Langston Peoples beat Cayden Hill 6-2, 6-0 at No. 6, and then Winston Richter downed Owen Perkins 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5. Second-seeded Harrison Morris was the only one left on the court, facing Reagan’s Ethan Evans. Evans had won this battle down in Pfafftown, but Morris, coming back from a year-long layoff, was more in form this time around. He was broken at 2-3 in set one, but then mounted a furious comeback to win that set. Evans broke him again in set two, this time at 2-2, and again Morris responded with fire, fighting back for a 5-4 lead. Evans saved four match points, but Morris finally finished him for a 6-4, 6-4 win. Mount Airy ended the singles up 4-2.
If Reagan (5-2, 3-0) had swept the doubles again, it wouldn’t have mattered, but it couldn’t. Bray and Morris won four of the first five points at No. 1 doubles against Richmond and Kriplani. The latter two, knowing the Bears needed just one win to take the match, fought back and it was 8-7, but the two Bears scored a break and then took the match 10-7 to make it 5-2.
Evans and Peoples took the No. 2 doubles 10-8 over Morrison and Perkins for another Raider point, but it was academic by this time. The No. 3 doubles was played for pride, and Eaton and Ryan Graham took on Reagan’s Rieker and Richter in a match that went down to the wire. Eaton and Graham each held serve just once, but eventually rallied from behind a game to force a tiebreaker and claim a 9-8 (7-2) victory.
The Bears will host East Surry on Thursday evening.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.