Weather permitting, the top tennis players in the Northwest 1A Conference will finally have the chance to compete for league honors and a berth in the upcoming regionals starting today.
The tournament, hosted as usual by Mount Airy, was slated to begin on Tuesday afternoon, but a second straight day of rainy weather resulted in a decision by everyone involved to put things off until this afternoon. When things get under way today, Mount Airy will be the heavy favorites to come out with an individual title in the singles tournament.
The Bears entered two players who both have perfect records in singles this season. One of them, junior Emory Bray, has been Mount Airy’s top singles player throughout the season and has run up a perfect 14-0 record, including wins in all four of his conference matches. They also entered senior Ryan Graham, who will be the bottom seed in the six-team singles tournament, but who nevertheless has a perfect 6-0 record in singles since entering the starting lineup midway through the regular season. Graham is also unbeaten in two conference matches.
The top two seeds in the singles tournament, Bray and Bishop McGuinness’ Sam McDonald (10-0 this season), have byes into the semifinals. At 4 p.m., first-round matches commence with Graham taking on third-seeded AJ Key of East Surry (4-9) and No. 4 seed Alex Chinnasami (10-0) of Bishop challenging No. 5 seed Ryan Presnell (7-6) of East Surry.
Semifinal matches in the singles will take place later in the evening. Bray will face the winner between Chinnasami and Presnell, and McDonald will take on either Key or Graham. The championship match will take place on Thursday at 4 p.m.
The Villains, who won the regular-season team title in the NW1A, have chosen to focus on the doubles title with their top players. Henry Kirby and Jimmy Dasher, who went 9-1, 3-1 in the regular season. Kirby and Dasher’s lone loss came early in the season when they lost to a Mount Airy doubles team made up of Bray and Harrison Morris, who won’t be entered in the conference tournament as a team. Instead, Morris and Hunter Eaton will represent the Bears as the second seed in the doubles tournament. They played together for the first time in the regular-season finale last Friday at Galax and won. As with the singles, the doubles tournament features six entries, and the top two seeds have byes into the semifinals.
The Villains and Bears each entered a second doubles team, and each will face an East Surry pair.
Bishop’s Michael Angino and Jefferson Bercaw won three matches as a team during the regular season, including two in conference, without a loss. The two seniors are the third seed in the doubles and will play the Cardinals’ Ryan Sigmon and Nathan Cox, the sixth seeds. Mount Airy’s second doubles team is made up of Kaleb Morrison and Owen Perkins, who played virtually the entire season as No. 2 doubles for the Bears and went 7-2 overall, including a 2-2 mark in conference action. Both of their losses were to a Bishop doubles team of McDonald and Chinnasami that won’t be around for the tournament. They have the No. 4 seed and will face No. 5 Eli Gray and Lee Knight, who went 3-3 for East Surry during the regular season.
Following the opening-round doubles matches, the winner of the 3-6 match will play Morris and Eaton, while the winner of the 4-5 will take on Kirby and Dasher. The championship match will take place at 4 p.m. on Thursday, at the same time as the singles final.
In the event of further inclement weather potentially forcing additional delays, follow the Mount Airy athletic Twitter account at @GraniteBears for updates. However, current weather forecasts as of Tuesday night predicted that most of the rain would be gone from the area by noon today.
Top finishers in the tournament will be invited to compete in the regionals on May 16. The dual-team playoffs begin on May 2, with Bishop already in the field and Mount Airy likely to earn a wild-card berth as the conference runner-up with a 12-3 overall record.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.