Clayton is starting to climb the ranks of the 4A boys tennis world. The Comets won their first dual team playoff match at the 4A level in school history last week and have a state individual qualifier in Klein Evans.
But beating one of the state’s best teams is a taller net. Tuesday, Southwest Wake Athletic Conference champion Green Hope downed Clayton 5-1 in the second round of the state playoffs. The Falcons (16-2) await the winner between East Chapel Hill and Wakefield in the third round next week.
“We’re getting better, but we’re not there yet,” said veteran Comet coach Ken Stivason, whose team finished the season with a 15-1 mark. “That caliber of play that Green Hope, East Chapel Hill and especially Wakefield has is just another level. We were competitive in the middle seeds but there’s so much depth when you match up with a team like Green Hope.”
Green Hope, ranked third in the state tennis coaches’ poll behind Wakefield and East Chapel Hill, won in straight sets in five of the six matches. Clayton sophomore Klein Evans, a state individual tournament singles qualifier, earned the only Comet victory at No. 1 singles, 6-4, 6-1 over Ben Wayand.
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Louis Rico topped Naren Guha, 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, while George Edwards was a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Clayton’s Brooks Campbell at No. 3. Matt Whitney handled Clayton’s Ian Bliss, 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth singles match.
Rico and Whitney were headed for a state doubles championship berth but had to withdraw from regional play after they both came down with a sickness on Saturday. By NCHSAA rules, they cannot play in the state championships since they didn’t complete regional play.
Green Hope’s Eshaan Javalkar and Ashwin Iyer won at love (6-0, 6-0) at No. 5 and 6, respectively. Javalkar beat Noah Depriest and Iyer took down Vance Lanier.
“It was a good year for our team,” Stivason concluded. “We won our conference, advanced in the state playoffs and got that first playoff team win. We’ll keep building nad getting better.”