CARY — Green Hope boys’ tennis team seized victory in the second round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs with a 5-1 win against East Chapel Hill. The Falcons (18-1) claimed the 5-1 win in singles against the visiting Wildcats (14-5).
“We won our first set in all six matches today, and that is something to be proud of. More often than not, if you can win the first set, psychologically, it will put you ahead for the rest of the match,” said Green Hope Coach Kevin Taylor.
Sophomore Louis Rico got things rolling for the Falcons, easily winning the first singles match of the day with a score of 6-0, 6-2.
“I served very well, and I stayed mentally strong, but all-around I can still improve because I know I’m not unbeatable,” said Rico.
Senior Matt Hammond followed, earning another victory for Green Hope with a score of 6-2, 6-3.
The Falcons dominated the first two matches, but things changed when Thomas Wang took the court for East Chapel Hill. Although he lost the first set 7-5, Wang came back strong, winning the second set 6-2 and forcing his opponent Michael Neighbors into a tie-breaker.
“You can’t underestimate people who are smaller than you,” said Neighbors. “Winning a set doesn’t mean you're going to win, you have to close it out.”
After long minutes of tough rallies from both players, Wang prevailed in the tie-breaker with a score of 10-6.
“I capitalized on the short balls that he hit coming into the net. That was what really helped me in the second set. I just had to think about it one ball at a time, and that made it easier to focus,” said Wang.
Green Hope senior Kelly Patch and sophomore Ashwyn Iyer also recorded victories with scores of 6-3, 6-4, and 6-3, 7-5, respectively.
With the Falcons leading 4-1, both teams anxiously watched Kyle Burns and Connor Lutz battle out their match to determine if doubles would be played.
Burns, a Green Hope senior, won the first set 6-2, but lost the first game of the second set before building up a 5-1 lead. Lutz responded, but he could not stop the quickness of Burns who took the match 6-2, sealing the deal for the Falcons.
Green Hope’s win advances them to the quarterfinals of the 4A state playoffs, where they will host Millbrook on Monday.