CARY — At least from an individual standpoint, the 2018 tennis season didn’t end the way Mount Airy’s Emory Bray had hoped, but he’s still got one year to go.
Bray won his first 15 matches of his junior season, all from the No. 1 singles slot on the Granite Bears, and has led the team into the Elite Eight of the NCHSAA 1A state playoffs, with another match coming next week for a spot in the regional final. After an undefeated regular season, Bray finished second at the Northwest 1A Conference tournament and third at last week’s West Regional, the latter of which earned him a trip to the state championship meet.
Bray faced Ronik Grewal of Research Triangle Charter in the first round of the 16-player tournament and lost 6-4, 6-3 on Friday morning at the Cary Tennis Center.
As the No. 3 seed from the West, Bray was paired up against West No. 2 Grewal, who was playing just eight miles from his home school. The match was closely contested and hinged on just a few service breaks. In set one, both players were holding until Bray earned a break at 3-3, but then Grewal responded and got it back with one of his own. Bray needed to hold at 5-4 to keep the opening set going, but Grewal’s second break earned him the set.
Set two followed much the same pattern, with Bray earning the first break for a 1-0 lead, only to give it back on his first serve and then drop a second break at 2-3. He held at 2-5, but couldn’t keep the match going with another break of his own.
Bray, who finished his season with an overall record of 19-3, is only a junior and will come back next year for another shot at the title.
The Bears resume their dual-team season on Monday afternoon at Elkin, playing on the same courts that they contested the West Regional on. Mount Airy (14-3) faced Elkin on March 13 and pummeled the Mountain Valley co-champions 9-0, but the Buckin’ Elks (14-2) played that match without the services of 2016 1A individual state champion Ryan Macy. The only common opponent faced the teams was East Wilkes, who split with the Elks in conference play but lost 8-1 and 5-1 in two meetings with the Bears.
Whoever wins the match will face either Bishop McGuinness or Lincoln Charter for the right to play for the state championship.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.